It won’t be easy for them to make any noise Sunday.
Kansas City (21-29) began this series in brilliant fashion, following a 4-3 victory in the opener with a 12-5 rout Friday in which it had a season-high 20 hits. The outcome was far different Saturday night, when Boston starter Clay Buchholz(notes) tossed seven innings of a 1-0 victory to outduel Royals ace Zack Greinke(notes). The only run scored in the fourth, when Mike Lowell’s(notes) groundout brought home Adrian Beltre(notes).
“He helps you win. He always does,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. “We talk about how good he is defensively, but with the game on the line he’s even better.”
With a victory, the Royals can still win a series against the Red Sox (28-23) for the first time since taking two of three at Fenway from July 16-18, 2007, but on Saturday they had to tip their collective caps to Buchholz.
“We matched up against a guy who was on top of his game and is one of the best pitchers in the American League,” Kansas City manager Ned Yost said.
Yost’s club will face another pitcher fitting that description in the series finale.
Lester (5-2, 3.15 ERA) has been phenomenal for more than a month now, going 5-0 with a 1.45 ERA and a .152 opponent batting average over his last seven starts. He issued five walks Tuesday at Tampa Bay, but limited the major league-leading Rays to one hit and struck out nine over six innings of a 1-0 win.
The left-hander has also been virtually unhittable against the Royals. Lester is 3-1 with a 1.20 ERA in four starts against them and has thrown 17 scoreless innings to win his last two, including a no-hitter at Fenway on May 19, 2008.
Gil Meche(notes) had been scheduled to oppose Lester, but the veteran right-hander landed on the 15-day disabled list Friday with bursitis in his pitching shoulder. In his place, Kansas City will summon Bruce Chen(notes) (1-0, 2.89) out of the bullpen to make his first start of 2010, after 10 relief appearances.
Chen, who was briefly a member of the Red Sox during the 2003 season, is 28-40 with a 4.70 ERA in 121 starts for eight different teams. He went 1-6 with a 5.81 ERA in nine starts for the Royals in 2009, the shortest of which was a three-inning stint in a 6-0 loss at Boston on July 12.
The left-hander is 3-5 with a 4.84 ERA in 14 appearances - seven starts - versus the Red Sox.