Boston Red Sox
's recent struggles are behind him as the ace prepares for another postseason run.
Beckett has never had much trouble with the
Kansas City Royals
, but his teammates will be trying to avoid a third straight loss to the suddenly red-hot Royals as the teams continue their
four-game set on Wednesday night.
(89-61) all but locked down the AL wild card by winning 10 of their previous 11 games before arriving in Kansas City, but
they've had all kinds of problems against the Royals.
They blew a six-run lead in Monday's 12-9 loss, then managed two hits off
and two relievers in a 5-1 defeat on Tuesday. Boston's magic number for clinching a spot in the postseason still was cut to
six when Texas lost 9-1 to Oakland.
will feel confident about lowering that number with Beckett (15-6, 3.80 ERA) on the mound. He is 1-0 with a 2.77 ERA in his
last two starts after going 0-2 with a 7.76 ERA in his previous five outings.
Beckett didn't get a victory after allowing three runs in eight innings during Boston's 4-3 loss to the
Los Angeles Angels
on Thursday, but he continued to show signs of progress. The home run he gave up to
was the only one he's allowed in his last three starts after he surrendered 14 homers in 31 1-3 innings between Aug. 12 and
Kansas City hitters have never homered off Beckett, who is 4-0 with a 1.90 ERA in six career starts against the Royals. He
tossed a three-hitter against them in a 6-0 win on July 12.
He'll be facing
, who is coming off his first career shutout - also a three-hitter. The right-hander had been 0-7 with an 8.21 ERA in nine
starts between July 30 and Sept. 12, but he ended that skid emphatically in an 11-0 win over the
Chicago White Sox
"Even though I've been going through that stretch I felt like I was throwing the ball well. I really hadn't lost any confidence,"
Hochevar said. "It's tough. I felt like my stuff was good. I felt like I was making pitches. Sooner or later it was going
to break. Luckily it finally happened."
Hochevar (7-10, 5.79) beat the
for the first time on July 9, but he still allowed five runs in six innings of the 8-6 win as his career ERA against Boston
rose to 7.13.
The Royals (63-88) will also be trying to win their fourth straight game and continue an impressive final month. They are
12-3 since Sept. 7, including eight wins over teams currently in playoff position, climbing out of last place in the AL Central.
Kansas City's offense has come alive in that stretch, averaging 6.4 runs in the last 15 games.
, who is 5 for 8 in this series, is batting .378 with 23 RBIs in his last 19 contests.
, acquired from Cleveland at the trade deadline, had one of his team's two hits Tuesday, extending his hitting streak to a
career-best 21 games.
"It's just a testament to the type of hitter he is," outfielder
's official Web site. "He kind of got here with a lot of hoopla and he's handled it well."
will be trying to avoid a different kind of streak Wednesday - they haven't lost three straight since a six-game skid from