For the first time since the horrific events at the Boston Marathon Monday, the Red Sox will return home to Fenway Park Friday night, in what is sure to be an emotional night similar to Wednesday night at TD Garden when the Bruins played their first home game since the bombings.
The Red Sox will host the Kansas City Royals for a three-game set, the first series of a 10-game homestand for the club. The Royals come to Boston with an 8-6 record, following an off-day on Thursday, and currently sit in second place in the AL Central.
Taking the mound for the Red Sox this weekend will be Clay Buchholz (Friday), Ryan Dempster (Saturday) and Felix Doubront (Sunday). Buchholz and Dempster are coming off of their best outings of the season.
Buchholz took a no-hitter into the eighth inning last Sunday against the Rays and finished with a career-high 11 strikeouts. He has an ERA of 0.41, which leads the American League. Dempster pitched seven innings of two-hit, one-run ball in Monday’s win, also over the Rays. The Royals will counter with James Shields (Friday), Ervin Santana (Saturday), and Jeremy Guthrie (Sunday).
This series could also mark the return of David Ortiz, who has been out the first few weeks of the season as he comes back from an Achilles injury suffered last July. Ortiz has been rehabbing in Pawtucket for about a week, going 4-for-18 in that time. He did homer on Thursday and told reporters following the game that he does expect to be back with the big league club on Friday.
First baseman Mike Napoli comes into the series swinging a hot bat of late. Going into Thursday’s game he had doubled and driven in at least one run in each of his last four games, hitting .324 in his last nine games prior to Thursday.
On the flipside, Will Middlebrooks is struggling of late. He is hitless in his last 13 at-bats, and was given a day off Thursday in the series finale in Cleveland. He has just two hits since his three home run game in Toronto the first weekend of the season.
The Red Sox took 4-of-6 in their first homestand of the year and will look to continue their impressive start to the season as they led the AL East as of Thursday (record of 10-4). Friday’s game is scheduled for 7:05 (NESN), while Saturday (1:10) and Sunday (1:35) are afternoon games.
Follow Metro Red Sox beat writer Ryan Hannable on Twitter @hannable84