Royals, Chen welcome BoSox for start of four-game set

Veteran left-hander Bruce Chen makes his fifth start of the season and the 208th of his career on Thursday night when the Kansas City Royals host the Boston Red Sox in the first of a four-game weekend series at Kauffman Stadium.

Now 36 years old, Chen began this season with 19 straight appearances out of the bullpen before transitioning into a starting role with a six-inning outing at Cleveland on July 12.

He got a no-decision in that game - a 3-0 Royals loss - and has since gone 0-1 in three more starts while combining to allow four runs and 10 hits in 18 innings of work.

The native of Panama won three times in the 19 relief outings, downing Philadelphia, Tampa Bay and Houston. He recorded holds against Minnesota and the Red Sox and was charged with blown saves against Oakland and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

In the lone meeting with the Red Sox this season, Chen allowed two hits while throwing a scoreless two-thirds of an inning in a game the Royals won, 4-2.

Chen briefly pitched for Boston during the 2003 season and was 0-1 in five appearances.

He'll be opposed by Red Sox lefty Jon Lester, who's won two starts and earned a no-decision in three appearances since the All-Star break.

The former second-round draft pick lost his final two pre-break starts at Seattle and Oakland, but bounced back with consecutive wins over Tampa Bay and Baltimore while scattering 11 hits and allowing two runs in 13 1/3 innings.

He was lit up for six runs on 11 hits in just 4 1/3 innings against interleague foe Arizona on Aug. 2, but got only a no-decision in a game Boston lost, 7-6.

Lester is 6-2 in nine career meetings with the Royals and is 1-2 in three starts at Kauffman Stadium.

On Wednesday in Houston, Stephen Drew cracked a go-ahead three-run homer in the ninth and the Red Sox rallied for a second straight day to defeat the Astros, 7-5, and claim the rubber match of a three-game set.

Drew stepped to the plate after Josh Fields (1-2) gave up David Ortiz's fourth hit of the day and a walk to Jonny Gomes, and sent a no-doubter into the right field seats to put the Red Sox in front. The homer allowed Boston to sidestep a 1-for-11 performance with runners in scoring position and claim its ninth win in 12 games.

The Astros held a five-run lead on Tuesday before losing 15-10, and failed to maintain a three-run edge in Wednesday's series finale. Koji Uehara tossed a scoreless ninth for Boston to preserve his 11th save. Gomes clubbed a two-run shot with two outs in the seventh and Junichi Tazawa (5-3) tossed two perfect innings in relief to keep it a one-run game and the Red Sox within striking distance.

In Kansas City, Alex Gordon went 2-for-4 with a homer and two RBI and Alcides Escobar added to hits and a pair of RBI as the Royals downed the Minnesota Twins, 5-2.

Lorenzo Cain also drove in a run while Billy Butler and Eric Hosmer each collected two hits, including a double, and scored a run for the Royals, who are 15-4 since the All-Star break. Louis Coleman (2-0) earned the win after tossing 1 2/3 scoreless innings in relief and Greg Holland stranded a runner in the ninth for his 30th save.

The Red Sox and Royals entered the series all even in their all-time series, having each won 220 games since they began playing on May 27, 1969. Kansas City won twice in a three-game series at Fenway Park in April.