The Red Sox (55-36) have won nine of their last 10 games at Fenway Park against the Royals, outscoring them 68-48 since 2003. They are also trying to extend their one-half game division lead over the New York Yankees, who host the Seattle Mariners on Tuesday.
Boston rallied from a four-run, seventh-inning deficit in Monday’s 5-4 victory. Doug Mirabelli hit a three-run home run in the seventh to tie the game before Manny Ramirez drove in the game-winner with a sacrifice fly that scored Willie Harris in the eighth.
“We just didn’t do much offensively for a while,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. “Once Dougie hits that ball, the whole complexion of the game changes.”
The win came at a price, though, as starting pitcher Tim Wakefield left after the fourth inning with a strained upper back. He will undergo tests Tuesday as the team hopes he does not join fellow starters Matt Clement (right shoulder strain) and David Wells (right knee soreness) on the disabled list.
Despite the winning streak, the 22-year-old left-hander has struggled with his control. He allowed one run and five hits with five walks through five innings, while throwing 103 pitches in a 5-4, 11-inning Red Sox loss Thursday to the Oakland Athletics.
Only 54 of his pitches were strikes, and he has reached the sixth inning in only three of his seven starts. Lester is averaging 102 pitches per game.
“There’s times when I feel pretty good about where I’m going, and then there’s nights like this where I’m going to take a step back,” Lester said. “But like I said, (I) kept the team in the ballgame (and) only gave up one run, so that’s the biggest thing there. Next step is getting to the sixth, seventh (and) eighth inning and give the bullpen a chance to rest a little bit.”
He will have a good chance to improve on his performances in his first career start against the team with the worst record in baseball—the Royals (32-60).
Brandon Duckworth (1-2, 5.40), will try to help the Royals end Lester’s streak and give them their first win at Fenway since May 9, 2004.
The right-hander is making his first start against the Red Sox and hopes to replicate the first three innings of his last outing.
He threw three hitless innings but allowed six runs in 4 2-3 innings of Thursday’s 6-4 loss to the Detroit Tigers. Duckworth was reached for five fifth-inning runs, three of which were unearned due to a pair of errors by third baseman Mark Teahen.
“I felt good, especially in the fifth inning,” Duckworth said. “I just got behind in some counts and put myself behind the eight-ball and had to make better pitches. They were swinging the bat and they do what they do.”
The Royals are an AL-worst 13-37 with a .243 batting average on the road this season.