A blistering 16-4 start after the All-Star break has put the Royals in the playoff conversation.
After beating the Red Sox, 5-1, on Thursday night at Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City sits just 4 1/2 games out of the second Wild Card spot in the American League. It's a position not many expected them to be in -- especially after an 8-20 record in May -- but the Royals are trying not to get ahead of themselves.
"If you try to get wrapped up in the big picture, it can kind of be overwhelming at times if you're trying to look at other teams and what they're doing," said Royals closer Greg Holland. "If you want to go to the playoffs, you've got to beat playoff teams. Other than that, I don't really look into it too much. This is going to be a good test for us in this series against Boston."
With the most wins in the AL, the Red Sox would certainly qualify as a playoff-caliber team. They tried to bolster their squad with the addition of starter Jake Peavy from the White Sox before the non-waiver Trade Deadline. In his first game in a Boston uniform, he was as good as the Sox could have hoped, giving up two runs over seven-plus innings, and he will take the mound again against the Royals on Friday.
He's also brought a competitive spirit to the Red Sox clubhouse that manager John Farrell called a "breath of fresh air."
"Winning is what it's about," Peavy said. "I don't care where you win. I don't care if you win at ping-pong in the clubhouse. It's fun to win, and that's why we all show up to the ballpark every day is to find a way for your team to win."
His counterpart on Friday will be Ervin Santana, who has been a key cog for the Royals' pitching staff that boasts the best ERA in the AL. Santana has been particularly impressive in his previous four starts, winning three decisions and compiling a 1.27 ERA. He is 4-3 over 12 starts against Boston in his career with a 3.98 ERA.
Red Sox: Wright demoted as Nava returns
With Daniel Nava returning from paternity leave, the Red Sox sent Steven Wright back to Triple-A Pawtucket.
Wright, a knuckleballer, lasted just one inning in his first Major League start and recorded a 2-0 record with a 5.40 ERA in four games.
Nava said his wife, Rachel, gave birth to a "healthy" daughter named Faith on Monday morning. He started at first base against the Royals Thursday and went 1-for-3.
Royals: Hosmer's multihit streak ends
Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer had five consecutive games with multiple hits, but he went 0-for-4 on Thursday.
Still, Hosmer's hot hitting has been a bright spot for a Royals team that ranks 11th in the AL in runs scored and last in home runs. The slugger is hitting .353 with seven RBIs in August.
His average has soared to .294, up from a .259 mark on June 6. Manager Ned Yost said he's seen a change in the slugger's demeanor at the plate.
"He's much more relaxed, he's much more confident," Yost said. "Every time he steps in the box now he's just oozing confidence. He finally got his swing shorter and got back to being who he was and he's got all the confidence in the world every time he steps into that batters' box."
• The Red Sox have scored more runs (591) than any team in baseball this season. The Royals have surrendered fewer runs (426) than any team in the AL.
• The Red Sox are 46-9 (.836) when scoring first this year, the highest such win percentage in the Majors.
• The Royals now lead the all-time series with the Red Sox, 221-220.
Michael Periatt is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.