Friday’s Red Sox-Royals matchups: Clay Buchholz vs. James Shields

July 18, 2014 - 4:29 am

The Red Sox will kick off the second half of the 2014 season Friday when they host the Royals for a three-game set at Fenway Park. Boston will send Clay Buchholz to the mound against James Shields in the series opener. Buchholz (4-5, 5.42 ERA) turned in his best outing of the season Sunday against the Astros, securing a three-hit shutout while striking out a career-high 12 batters en route to a 11-0 Red Sox victory. Buchholz, who only needed 109 pitches to complete the shutout, is 2-1 with a 2.73 ERA in four starts since returning from the disabled list June 25 after missing about a month with a hyperextended left knee. "Today was reminiscent of the first half of last year before he went on the disabled list," Red Sox manager John Farrell said after the game. "Very much in control and could go to any one of four pitches at any time in the count." Buchholz credited his ability to utilize all four of his pitches as the biggest key to his success as of late. "It's night and day," Buchholz said of being able to throw all of his pitches. "It's tough going out in a big league baseball game and having two pitches. I've done a lot of work to get command of those pitches and it's finally paying off a little bit." Buchholz was dominant in his last against the Royals on April 20, 2013, surrendering two earned runs in eight innings of work. In five career starts against Kansas City, Buchholz is 4-1 with a 2.20 ERA. Shields (9-5, 3.65 ERA) is coming off of another strong performance on Saturday against the Tigers, allowing two earned runs in seven innings while striking out eight batters. Despite Shield'€™s great outing, the Royals lost, 5-1. The Royals are 6 1/2 games behind the Tigers in the AL Central. Despite the team's tough spot in the standings, Shields is confident in ™the Royals' chances of a postseason push. "We have the most confidence in our ability right now. We're still hanging in there, but we have a lot of good baseball left,"€ said Shields, who was traded from the Rays to the Royals before last season. As a member of the Royals, Shields is 8-2 against AL East teams and has won seven straight decisions against his former division. Shield'€™s last start against the Red Sox came on Aug. 11, 2013, when he allowed two earned runs in seven innings in what was a 4-3 Royals win. In 25 career starts against Boston, Shields is 9-13 with a 4.36 ERA. Royals vs. Buchholz (RHP) Billy Butler (16 plate appearances): .167/.313/.167, 2 singles, 2 strikeouts Alex Gordon (10): .500/.600/1.000, 1 double, 3 strikeouts Omar Infante (9): .250/.333/.500, 1 triple, 1 strikeout Raul Ibanez (6): .167/.167/.667, 1 home run, 2 strikeouts Alcides Escobar has two singles in four plate appearances against Shields. Eric Hosmer has one strikeout in four plate appearances against Shields. Lorenzo Cain has two doubles and one single in three plate appearances against Shields. Mike Moustakas (3): .000/.000/.000 Salvador Perez (3): .333/.333/1.000, 1 triple, 1 RBI Danny Valencia has one strikeout in two plate appearances against Shields. Red Sox vs. Shields (RHP)  David Ortiz (65): .316/.400/.632, 3 home runs, 16 RBIs Dustin Pedroia (60): .291/.350/.436, 2 home runs, 5 RBIs Mike Napoli (24): .182/.250/.364, 1 home run, 10 strikeouts Daniel Nava (14): .250/.357/.500, 1 home run, 3 strikeouts Stephen Drew (8): .500/.500/.625, 1 double, 1 strikeout Mike Carp (4): .250/.250/.500, 1 double, 1 home run Jonny Gomes (3): .500/.667/.667, 1 single, 1 walk David Ross has two strikeouts in two plate appearances against Shields.