Lester opens Royals set

Red Sox looking to unseat Royals in set opener

Facing a cellar dweller did not do much good for the Red Sox over the weekend, when they lost two out of three to the Devil Rays at Tropicana Field. They'll try to do a better job of capitalizing on a lesser team when they open a three-game series Tuesday night against the Royals, who have the worst record in the Major Leagues.

The Red Sox, who are currently without the services of Jason Varitek, Trot Nixon and Tim Wakefield, can't take any opponent lightly. They trail the Yankees by two games in the American League East, marking the first time they've had a deficit that big all season.

"The Yankees are hot. They're going to get cold," said Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis. "Every team gets hot and then gets cold. That's how it works. They're not going to win every game out. They're going to have to cool down at some point, hopefully it's when they play us."

And as Youkilis noted, the Red Sox themselves need to start playing better.

"We're not playing that good of ball right now, maybe this off-day will help us and we can bounce back," Youkilis said. "Guys are getting healthy. You never know what can happen. We just have to keep going at it and mentally being strong and not worry about one loss at Tampa Bay. [We need to] just enjoy the off-day and go to Kansas City and take that first game."

Leading the Red Sox in that quest will be rookie left-hander Jon Lester. The Sox are also expected to regain the services of third baseman Mike Lowell, who missed the three-game set at Tampa Bay with left ankle woes.

Pitching matchup
BOS: LHP Jon Lester (5-1, 3.59 ERA)
Lester showed incredible poise for his age in his last start, rebounding from a three-run first inning to pitch five shutout innings afterwards. The southpaw also allowed eight hits, but only walked one batter. His control has steadily improved after getting himself into several jams with walks earlier in the season.

KC: RHP Luke Hudson (4-3, 4.67 ERA)
Hudson explored uncharted territory in his last start on Wednesday against the White Sox, pitching into the eighth inning for the first time this season. Though he didn't do much once he accomplished the feat, surrendering a leadoff home run before being pulled, it didn't ruin his solid outing. Hudson won his third consecutive decision, allowing four hits and three runs in seven-plus innings. Tuesday will mark his sixth start of the year to go with his 11 relief appearances before July 7.

Player to watch
Coco Crisp is 4-for-5 lifetime against Hudson.

On the Internet
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television

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

Up next
• Wednesday: Red Sox (RHP Josh Beckett, 13-6, 5.00) at Royals (LHP Jorge De La Rosa, 3-3, 8.60), 8:10 p.m. ET
• Thursday: Red Sox (RHP Curt Schilling, 14-4, 3.78) at Royals (LHP Mark Redman, 7-6, 5.38), 8:10 p.m. ET
• Friday: Orioles (TBA) at Red Sox (LHP David Wells, 0-2, 8.05)], 7:05 p.m. ET

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.