The Boston Red Sox did not look much like the team that cruised through the American League in 2013 for most of the first half but finally appeared to be picking up the pace just before the All-Star break. The Red Sox attempt to carry some of that momentum over when they host the Kansas City Royals in the opener of a three-game series on Friday. Boston was 58-39 at the break last season but needed to win four of five to get its 2014 mark up to 43-52.The Royals find themselves in a much stronger position to start the second half at 48-46 and are very much in the race for a postseason spot after a bit of a slow start. Kansas City had a chance to gain some ground on first-place Detroit in the AL Central before the break but lost three of four, salvaging the finale with a 5-2 comeback triumph. The Red Sox began a youth movement just in front of the break with the promotions of Mookie Betts and Christian Vazquez, and they're getting strong early returns as five different rookies drove in at least one run in Sunday's 11-0 victory in Houston.TV: 7:10 p.m. ET, FSN (Kansas City), NESN (Boston)PITCHING MATCHUP: Royals RH James Shields (9-5, 3.65 ERA) vs. Red Sox RH Clay Buchholz (4-5, 5.42)Shields was sharp in his last two starts, allowing two runs and 10 hits while striking out 18 and walking one in 14 total innings. The veteran did not get enough run support to record a win against Detroit on Saturday and has only one victory in his last five turns. Shields, who has plenty of experience against Boston from his time in the AL East with Tampa Bay, is 9-13 with a 4.36 ERA in 25 career starts against the Red Sox.Buchholz is coming off by far his best start of the season on Sunday, when he struck out 12 and did not walk a batter while yielding three hits in nine scoreless innings at Houston. The 29-year-old has been much stronger in four starts since coming off the disabled list, issuing only one walk in that span. Buchholz is 4-1 with a 2.20 ERA in five career starts against Kansas City.WALK-OFFS1. The Royals reportedly have interest in Red Sox LF Jonny Gomes should he be made available in a trade.2. Boston LHP Jon Lester surrendered two runs over an inning of work in the All-Star Game while RHP Koji Uehara struck out the lone batter he faced.3. Kansas City acquired RHP Jason Frasor from the Texas Rangers on Wednesday for Triple-A RHP Spencer Patton. PREDICTION: Red Sox 3, Royals 2