Red Sox shoot for another victory over Royals

The Boston Red Sox didn't gain any ground in the American League East Division, but at least they were able to get back into the win column with a victory over the Kansas City Royals in last night's series opener.

Boston targets another win Friday in the second installment of a four-game series against the Royals from Kauffman Stadium, and remained a half-game behind the AL East-leading New York Yankees with Thursday's 4-3 triumph.

Dustin Pedroia went 3-for-4 with three RBI and Jason Varitek knocked in a run for the Red Sox, who ended a two-game slide and won for the third time in eight tries.

"We're just trying to win games right now," Pedroia said. "We're getting close to the end here and we're all trying to do our jobs. Wherever we hit, we've got to try to produce for us."

Josh Beckett started for the BoSox and recorded his 10th win (10-5) with seven innings of three-run ball. He struck out four and did not walk a batter, while Josh Bard and Jonathan Papelbon each threw a scoreless inning of relief. Papelbon had two strikeouts in collecting his 29th save.

In other Boston news, Kevin Youkilis was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Thursday due to back stiffness. The club is already without slugging DH David Ortiz because of bursitis in his foot and had totaled 12 runs during a 1-4 stretch prior to Thursday's win.

Andrew Miller takes the hill for the Red Sox this evening and is 4-1 with a 5.40 ERA in 10 games (8 starts) this season. Miller hasn't recorded a decision in four straight appearances and tossed one-third of an inning in last Wednesday's 5-2 loss at Minnesota. The lefty did not figure into the decision of a 13-9 win over Kansas City on July 26 and gave up seven runs -- five earned -- and nine hits in 3 2/3 innings.

Miller, who hasn't started since July 31 at the White Sox, is 0-2 with a less- desirable 11.08 ERA in five career games (3 starts) against the Royals.

The Red Sox will visit Texas for four games after this set in KC.

Meanwhile, the Royals have lost nine of their last 11 games and fell to 1-3 on a seven-game homestand. Luke Hochevar was dealt the loss last night and permitted four runs and eight hits in six innings of work.

"I thought Luke pitched really well tonight," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "Both Pedroia's hits came on real good pitches. The first one was a two-seamer that was about six inches in -- a nice piece of hitting to drive the ball up the middle. And the game-winner was a cutter that was kind of down-and-away and he kind of poked it up the middle."

Alex Gordon went 2-for-4 with a home run, two RBI and a pair of runs scored, while Billy Butler added three hits and knocked in a run for Kansas City. The Royals made news off the field prior to the game by signing outfielder Jeff Francoeur to a two-year contract extension. He went 0-for-4 last night.

Yost will pin pitching duties on Jeff Francis tonight and he's just 4-13 with a 4.76 ERA in 25 starts. Francis has lost consecutive starts, allowing 10 total runs in that period, and was last in action during Sunday's 6-2 setback at the White Sox. He lasted 3 2/3 innings and gave up six runs and 10 hits.

Francis is 2-15 in 12 home starts and defeated the Red Sox the only time he faced them on June 14, 2007, when he delivered five shutout innings to prevail.

The Red Sox are 3-2 against Kansas City this season and are 7-4 in the past 11 contests in this series.