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MIN@KC: Guthrie strikes out seven to blank the Twins

Royals manager Ned Yost said it was only a matter of time before his club started putting the pieces together.

That time is now.

After beating the Red Sox, 9-6, on Friday, Kansas City has reeled off 17 wins in 21 games since the All-Star break.

With a win Saturday, Kansas City could guarantee a series win over a Boston team that owns the best record in the American League.

Though the pitching has been good for most of the season -- the Royals owned the best ERA in the AL entering Friday -- it has been on another level during their latest streak. Since July 23, Royals pitchers have a 2.13 ERA, leading the team to 15 wins in their last 17 games.

The offense, which has been sluggish at times, has started to come around as well.

"It just always felt like they were going to get it together and there would come a point in the season when everything would click for them," said Yost. "We did so well pitching-wise and defensively in the first part of the year and were really inconsistent offensively, but you knew with that group of hitters that as soon as [Eric Hosmer] got confidence and as soon as [Mike Moustakas] got his confidence, that would change the dynamic of our club offensively. ... It was just a matter of time, at least in my mind, until they came together as an offensive unit and then things would really start clicking for us."

The Royals will send Jeremy Guthrie to the mound on Saturday in the third game of the series. He's 12-7 with a 3.96 ERA this season, and if he earns the win, he would be the first Royals pitcher with 13 victories since Zack Greinke had 16 in 2009.

The Red Sox will counter with Felix Doubront, who has been as reliable as any pitcher in the Boston rotation. The lefty is riding a streak of 15 straight starts of giving up three runs or less.

He has a 2.41 ERA in his lasted three starts and fired seven shutout innings Sunday against the D-backs.

"I've been consistent in my five-day routine and just taking my plan for my next outing," Doubront said. "That's the most important thing."

Red Sox: Buchholz throws off mound, inches toward return
Clay Buchholz is getting closer to returning to the Boston rotation.

The starter, who hasn't pitched since June 8, threw 40 pitches off a mound Friday and said he was able to comfortably throw all his pitches.

"I was able to throw all my pitches," said Buchholz. "I wasn't worried about location. It was more about extension. I was pretty close to the zone with all of them."

"He's following the progression as it is outlined," said manager John Farrell. "There are no restrictions as far as the intensity with which he's throwing. It's about getting the ball back in his hand and going through the repetitions."

Buchholz hopes to throw in a simulated game by the end of next week. It's unclear what will happen with the rotation once Buchholz, who is 9-0 with a 1.71 ERA this season, returns.

The Red Sox signed Jake Peavy before the non-waiver Trade Deadline and have used Ryan Dempster, Jon Lester, John Lackey and Doubront in the rotation all season long.

Royals: Perez could return Sunday
Catcher Salvador Perez is recovering well from the low-grade concussion he sustained last Saturday in New York, but the Royals aren't going to rush getting him back on the field.

Perez could return Sunday, but only if he proves he's ready by passing the ImPACT concussion test.

"He's got to be right on it," Yost said. "There ain't no ifs, ands or wobbles or anything. He's got to be back to being normal. And if he's normal, I ain't sitting him."

Perez is hitting .278 with four home runs and 43 RBIs this season.

Worth noting
• Red Sox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury stole his Major League-best 41st base of the season Friday. He's only been caught stealing four times.

• Moustakas has batted .310 (21-for-67) with four doubles, four homers and 13 RBIs since July 20. His average was .215 entering the All-Star break.

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