Originally written on NESN.com  |  Last updated 12/14/14
6:15 p.m.: David Ross will catch the first game out of the break. Ross is expected to catch Friday and then again Sunday when Jon Lester toes the rubber. Christian Vazquez presumably will start Saturday’s middle game. Friday’s outfield will consist of Daniel Nava in left field, Jackie Bradley Jr. in center field and Brock Holt in right field. Shane Victorino could return to the Red Sox on Saturday if all goes well in Friday’s rehab game with Triple-A Pawtucket. Friday’s complete lineups are below. Boston Red Sox (43-52) Brock Holt, RF Dustin Pedroia, 2B David Ortiz, DH Mike Napoli, 1B Daniel Nava, LF Xander Bogaerts, SS Stephen Drew, SS David Ross, C Jackie Bradley Jr., CF Clay Buchholz, RHP (4-5, 5.42 ERA) Kansas City Royals (48-46) Lorenzo Cain, CF Omar Infante, 2B Eric Hosmer, 1B Salvador Perez, C Alex Gordon, LF Billy Butler, DH Mike Moustakas, 3B Alcides Escobar, SS Nori Aoki, RF James Shields, RHP (9-5, 3.65 ERA) 6 p.m. ET: The Boston Red Sox have reached a critical stage. The Red Sox enter the second half of the 2014 season nine games below .500 (43-52) and 9 1/2 games back in the American League East. The next couple of weeks will go a long way toward determining the club’s fate. It all starts Friday against the Kansas City Royals at Fenway Park. Boston’s .453 winning percentage at the break is the team’s worst first-half mark since the 1997 team went 38-48 in the first half. Clearly, the Sox underachieved, especially when you consider the lofty expectations surrounding Boston after last year’s World Series run. There is hope, though. The Red Sox won four of their final five games before the All-Star break . The stretch featured Boston’s best five-game run differential of the season (plus-17). The Red Sox scored 30 runs in the five contests. The Red Sox’s offensive outburst is encouraging because Boston’s bats have been the issue all season. Red Sox pitchers rank fourth in the American League with a 3.83 ERA — Boston’s best pre-break mark since 2008 (3.80). The Red Sox’s 56 quality starts rank second in the AL behind the Oakland Athletics’ 61. Clay Buchholz, who tossed a complete-game, three-hit shutout in Boston’s 11-0 win Sunday, will open the second half Friday. The right-hander has made tremendous strides since returning from the disabled list, and it’ll be extremely important for him to continue to build on his progress if the Red Sox are going to jump back into playoff contention. He’ll face Royals ace James Shields in Friday’s second-half opener. Friday’s first pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. Tune in on NESN and follow along with NESN.com’s live blog. The Red Sox are entering a make-or-break stretch, and you won’t want to miss any of the action.Filed under: Boston Red Sox, Live Blog, Ricky Doyle, Top Stories

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