Boston (89-61) at Kansas City (63-88)

Fair Currently: Kansas City, MO
Temp: 87° F
  • Game info: 8:10 pm EDT Wed Sep 23, 2009
  • TV: NESN, FSKC
Preview | Box Score | Recap

The Boston Red Sox are hoping Josh Beckett’s(notes) recent struggles are behind him as the ace prepares for another postseason run.

Beckett has never had much trouble with the Kansas City Royals, but his teammates will be trying to avoid a third straight loss to the suddenly red-hot Royals as the teams continue their four-game set on Wednesday night.

The Red Sox (89-61) all but locked down the AL wild card by winning 10 of their previous 11 games before arriving in Kansas City, but they’ve had all kinds of problems against the Royals.

They blew a six-run lead in Monday’s 12-9 loss, then managed two hits off Zack Greinke(notes) and two relievers in a 5-1 defeat on Tuesday. Boston’s magic number for clinching a spot in the postseason still was cut to six when Texas lost 9-1 to Oakland.

The Red Sox will feel confident about lowering that number with Beckett (15-6, 3.80 ERA) on the mound. He is 1-0 with a 2.77 ERA in his last two starts after going 0-2 with a 7.76 ERA in his previous five outings.

Beckett didn’t get a victory after allowing three runs in eight innings during Boston’s 4-3 loss to the Los Angeles Angels on Thursday, but he continued to show signs of progress. The home run he gave up to Howie Kendrick(notes) was the only one he’s allowed in his last three starts after he surrendered 14 homers in 31 1-3 innings between Aug. 12 and Sept. 2.

Kansas City hitters have never homered off Beckett, who is 4-0 with a 1.90 ERA in six career starts against the Royals. He tossed a three-hitter against them in a 6-0 win on July 12.

He’ll be facing Luke Hochevar(notes), who is coming off his first career shutout - also a three-hitter. The right-hander had been 0-7 with an 8.21 ERA in nine starts between July 30 and Sept. 12, but he ended that skid emphatically in an 11-0 win over the Chicago White Sox on Friday.

“Even though I’ve been going through that stretch I felt like I was throwing the ball well. I really hadn’t lost any confidence,” Hochevar said. “It’s tough. I felt like my stuff was good. I felt like I was making pitches. Sooner or later it was going to break. Luckily it finally happened.”

Hochevar (7-10, 5.79) beat the Red Sox for the first time on July 9, but he still allowed five runs in six innings of the 8-6 win as his career ERA against Boston rose to 7.13.

The Royals (63-88) will also be trying to win their fourth straight game and continue an impressive final month. They are 12-3 since Sept. 7, including eight wins over teams currently in playoff position, climbing out of last place in the AL Central.

Kansas City’s offense has come alive in that stretch, averaging 6.4 runs in the last 15 games. Alberto Callaspo(notes), who is 5 for 8 in this series, is batting .378 with 23 RBIs in his last 19 contests.

Boston’s Victor Martinez(notes), acquired from Cleveland at the trade deadline, had one of his team’s two hits Tuesday, extending his hitting streak to a career-best 21 games.

“It’s just a testament to the type of hitter he is,” outfielder Jason Bay(notes) told the Red Sox’s official Web site. “He kind of got here with a lot of hoopla and he’s handled it well.”

The Red Sox will be trying to avoid a different kind of streak Wednesday - they haven’t lost three straight since a six-game skid from Aug. 4-9.

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Starting Pitchers

J. Beckett LAD vs. L. Hochevar KC
17-6 Record 7-13
3.86 ERA 6.55
199 K 106
55 BB 46
1.19 WHIP 1.49

Scoreboard

Wednesday, Sep 23