Game 117: Red Sox at Royals - Boston lineup shuffled in Kansas City

Ben Whitehead
Contributing Writer

It wasn’t easy in Houston, but the Red Sox left the Space City with two wins in three tries and move on to the Show-Me State. Boston (70-46) had yet another come-from-behind win, this time thanks to a three-run ninth-inning home run by Stephen Drew, giving the Red Sox their 70th win of 2013, one more than they had all of 2012. And there are still 46 games to go. The win also means Boston is 24 wins above .500, the first time it has been at that mark since – GASP! – September 16, 2011.

The next four of those 46 games will take place at Kauffman Stadium against the Kansas City Royals, winners of 13 of their last 15 games. Unfortunately for the Royals (58-53), they still remain 8.5 games behind the Detroit Tigers in the AL Central and 2.5 back of Cleveland for second place. Nonetheless, these Royals are not to be taken lightly. In fact, Kansas City took 2-of-3 from Boston at Fenway Park in April.

Jon Lester gets the ball in the series opener tonight for the Red Sox. Lester is 10-6 with a 4.52 ERA and seemed to be turning a corner back to the ace lefty we all thought he had become. That is until he allowed six earned runs on 11 hits and didn’t make it out of the fifth inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks in his last start. Lester once again tries to right his own ship and prove he’s worthy of being the go-to guy when Boston enters postseason mode.

Here is the Red Sox lineup tonight (first pitch – 8:10 pm EDT):

1. Ellsbury, CF
2. Victorino, RF
3. Pedroia, 2B
4. Gomes, LF
5. Drew, SS
6. Napoli, DH
7. Nava, 1B
8. Saltalamacchia, C
9. Holt, 3B

Lester, P

Bruce Chen, who gets the start tonight for the Royals, spent most of the season coming out of the bullpen before returning to the Kansas City rotation July 12. Chen is 4-0 with a 2.03 ERA and has allowed just four runs, walked three and struck out 21 in four starts (24 innings) since he rejoined the rotation.

Lineup shuffle
As you can see, David Ortiz is receiving a day off against the lefty Chen and in the DH spot is Mike Napoli. Daniel Nava will play first and hot-hitting Jonny Gomes, who has two home runs in the last two games, will bat in the clean-up spot. Napoli has shifted down to sixth for the first time this season and Drew is batting fifth for the first time as well – and first time since 2011 for him. All of these changes despite the fact that the Red Sox lead MLB in runs (590) and OPS (.787).

Hot and cold
Hot: Ortiz
Big Papi went 9-for-12 in Houston, including back-to-back four-hit nights, the first time he has done that in his career. Ortiz is batting line is .332/.412/.587 with an OPS of .999. Of course, he has the day off.

Cold: Napoli
John Farrell sat Napoli Wednesday, but continues to make the claim that it’s to get another left-handed bat in the lineup against a right-handed pitcher. Napoli entered the game after Shane Victorino was ejected and had one at-bat – a pop out to first base. He is now hitless in his last 15 ABs. Of course, he’s in the lineup as the DH.

Hot: Drew
Drew has two game-winning hits in the last week of play. First, Drew hit a walk-off in the 15th inning against the Mariners. Last night, he had the go-ahead homer in the ninth. Drew is also on an eight-game hitting streak and is batting .464 during that span.

Glowing: Koji Uehara
Since the start of July, Uehara has allowed one run, and it was unearned. He has pitched 18.1 innings in 17 games and has a 15-inning scoreless streak going. That is one inning shy of his career-best of 16 innings from June 22-July 31, 2011. Also, opponents are hitting .108 (10-for-93) against Uehara since June 10 with 40 strikeouts and three walks.

Even Stevens
Surprisingly enough, the Red Sox do not own a winning record against the Royals. Nor do the Royals against the Sox. The two teams are dead even. That’s right, 440 games played between the two clubs: 220 wins for Boston and 220 wins for Kansas City. With a four-game series, the two teams could split and still be even after this weekend.

Let us know what you think about tonight’s game by commenting below.

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