Wakefield welcomes Royals to Fenway

Wakefield to welcome Royals to Fenway

Leading the New York Yankees by three games at the All-Star break, the Red Sox were fully aware that their long-time foes might close the gap during the second half of the season. However, no one on the Red Sox expected that their first-place lead would dwindle to one-half game only four games after the Midsummer Classic.

Having lost three of four games to the Oakland A's at home and seven of their last 11, the Red Sox will look to regain their first-place form as the American League Central's last-place team, the Kansas City Royals, arrives at Fenway Park for a three-game set

Taking the mound in Monday night's opener will be knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, who was originally slated to pitch on Sunday, but was pushed back a day because of a sore back. Right-hander Luke Hudson will start for the Royals.

"He would've pitched on Sunday, but it makes sense," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "It gives him an extra day [of rest] the next time out. With the All-Star break, you have the ability to move a guy back, and I just didn't see why we shouldn't."

Wakefield has not lost a decision since June 15 and has earned wins in three out of his last four starts. Wakefield, who often toiled with little run support early in the season, has benefitted from at least eight Red Sox runs in each of his last four starts, including three double-digit efforts.

In his last outing, Wakefield allowed four runs and four hits over five innings in a win against Tampa Bay.

Wakefield is 3-3 with a 3.11 ERA at home this season and 10-5 lifetime against Kansas City with a 3.56 ERA.

Pitching matchup
BOS: RHP Tim Wakefield (7-8, 4.05)
The veteran knuckleballer, despite battling back woes, has been a consistent starter all year for the Sox. He has won his last three decisions and can get back to .500 for the first time since April 9 with a victory in this one.

KC: RHP Luke Hudson (2-3, 5.79)
Hudson pitched impressively in his first start of the year, on July 7 against Toronto. He allowed one run and two hits in five innings to pick up the victory. The one-time reliever, who threw 72 pitches in that outing, stretched out his stamina with a few bullpen sessions over the All-Star break.

Player to watch
Struggling through a difficult season at the plate, catcher Jason Varitek has batted .400 (6-for-15) in his last four games to break a 3-for-35 slump in his previous eight games.

On the Internet
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television

On radio
• WEEI 850 AM, WROL 950 AM (Español)

Up next
• Tuesday: Red Sox (LHP Jon Lester, 4-0, 2.89) vs. Royals (RHP Brandon Duckworth, 1-2, 5.40), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Wednesday: Red Sox (RHP Josh Beckett, 11-5, 5.12) vs. Royals (LHP Mark Redman, 6-4, 5.38), 1:05 p.m. ET
• Thursday: Red Sox (RHP Curt Schilling, 11-3, 3.42) vs. Rangers (LHP John Rheinecker, 4-4, 4.82), 2:05 p.m. ET

Howard Kussoy is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.