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The Red Sox, winners of 10 of 11 games, are nearing a playoff spot once again. The lead over the Rangers is stretched to eight games, leaving the magic number at just seven, and they also sit just five back of the Yankees for the East crown.
Kansas City will be the penultimate road series, leading into the showdown in New York. The Royals reside at the bottom (tied with the Indians) of the American League Central ladder and sport the Junior Circuit’s worst run differential (-123). The Red Sox took three of four in their Fenway series, the only other meeting of the teams this season.
Tim Wakefield (11-4, 4.22 ERA, 1.26 WHIP) will make his return in the opener, testing his ailing back to see if he will be able to contribute to the playoff run. Lenny DiNardo (0-1, 5.23, 1.94) will be his opposition, making only his third start of the season. Paul Byrd (1-1, 5.79, 1.88) has the daunting task of facing Royals ace Zack Greinke (14-8, 2.14, 1.06), who got off to a historically good start with only four earned runs allowed in his first 60 innings. Josh Beckett (CG SHO, 7 K, 3 H vs KAN) takes on Luke Hochevar (1-0, 6.0 IP, 5 ER, 9 H, 5 K, 1 BB). Clay Buchholz (6-3, 3.49, 1.37) duels rookie Dusty Hughes (0-1, 4.38, 1.46), making only his second career start, in the finale.
Billy Butler is the Royals biggest hitter, in more ways than one, with a .299 average, 47 2B, 18 HR, 83 RBI, and 72 R. Miguel Olivo is their leading home run hitter with 23 and a .251 average, 64 RBI, and 46 R. The spacious Kauffman Stadium makes one stat stick out more than any other with the Royals: the phenomenal amount of triples, 48. David DeJesus leads the team with nine, Willie Blomquist has eight, and Alberto Callaspo has seven. Even Olivo, the catcher, has five.
Greinke and Hochevar will be a tough twosome for the Red Sox. The Sox got to Hochevar in the first game, but he got enough offense to steal the victory. The Red Sox will beat at least one of them and repeat the series from Fenway by taking three of four again, setting up a potentially interesting series in the Bronx.