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Fri, Aug 19, 2011 - 8:10 PM ET
 

Red Sox-Royals Preview

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The Boston Red Sox offense has struggled of late, and scoring runs becomes even more difficult with Kevin Youkilis joining David Ortiz on the shelf.

Facing the last-place Kansas City Royals may help mask any problems for a weekend.

Boston looks for its fourth straight win in Kansas City when the teams continue their four-game set Friday night.

The Red Sox (75-48) placed Youkilis on the 15-day DL on Thursday due to back stiffness, creating another hole in a lineup already missing Ortiz, who hasn't played since Sunday due to bursitis in his right foot.

"You lose one, it's kind of a big deal, you lose two it doesn't help,'' manager Terry Francona said. "But you know, our challenge is to not let it affect us winning games, so that's what we'll do.''

Boston had totaled 12 runs during a 1-4 stretch prior to Thursday's 4-3 win over Kansas City (51-74). Dustin Pedroia broke out of a 1-for-10 slump by going 3 for 4 with three RBIs. He's hitting .500 in 13 career games at Kauffman Stadium and .545 with two homers and seven RBIs in five overall contests against the Royals this season.

The Red Sox's nine hits Thursday matched the total from their previous three games combined.

Andrew Miller (4-1, 5.40 ERA) could use similar support as he returns to the rotation for a spot start, necessitated by a doubleheader against Tampa Bay earlier this week.

Miller will be making his first start since July 31, when he allowed three runs and a season-high 10 hits in 5 2-3 innings and didn't get a decision in Boston's 5-3 victory over the Chicago White Sox. The left-hander has a 5.36 ERA in eight starts, though the Red Sox are 7-1 in those games.

Miller had a rough time of it against the Royals on July 26, giving up seven runs and nine hits in 3 2-3 innings before Boston rallied for a 13-9 win. He's never beaten the Royals and has an 11.08 ERA in five career appearances - three starts - against them.

He'll again have to contend with Alex Gordon and Billy Butler, both of whom hit fourth-inning homers off Miller in that outing.

Gordon hit a two-run homer and Butler went 3 for 3 with an RBI to account for all of Kansas City's offense Thursday. The Royals have lost 11 of 14 despite Butler hitting .462 with eight RBIs over his last seven games.

"Their lineup is dangerous,'' Francona said of the Royals. "You make a mistake and they can hurt you.''

Kansas City will give the ball to the struggling Jeff Francis (4-13, 4.76 ERA), who is 0-3 with a 4.80 ERA in his last five starts at home.

Francis dropped to 0-2 with an 8.04 ERA over his last three starts overall after allowing six runs and 10 hits through 3 2-3 innings of Sunday's 6-2 loss to the Chicago White Sox.

Kansas City has failed to provide the left-hander with a single run of support over his last 10 2-3 innings pitched.

Francis beat the Red Sox on June 14, 2007, when he pitched five scoreless innings in Colorado's 7-1 win at Fenway Park. His most recent start against the Red Sox came in Game 1 of that season's World Series, taking the loss after allowing six runs and 10 hits in four innings.

Tagged: Red Sox, Royals, Jeff Francis, Billy Butler, Andrew Miller

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