Danny Duffy remembers his first start at Fenway Park, but for all the wrong reasons.
The Royals left-hander's one and only start in Boston on July 26, 2011, was a calamity, as he gave up six runs, six hits, and three walks in 3 2/3 innings of Kansas City's 13-9 loss.
Duffy's second career start at Fenway comes on Saturday. He reflected on the progress he's made in the three seasons since that first outing.
"My rookie year, that was a tough one," Duffy said. "It's been a long time, but I've come a long way since then. They were a pretty different team back then, too. So, I'm just looking forward to getting out there [Saturday] and executing my game plan."
Duffy's 2.76 ERA leads the Royals' rotation, and he's managed to pitch into the sixth inning in each of his last eight starts with a 2.19 ERA. Yet, he is just 3-4 in that span.
"I don't know that I'm satisfied because I've lost a few of those games and my record wouldn't exactly indicate a whole lot of a success," Duffy said. "So, I'll just go out there and be a lot better than I was last time."
Pitching at fabled Fenway for the second time shouldn't be a distraction.
"You go out there and see the sights of Fenway and appreciate it for what it is, but just treat it like you're pitching on a high school baseball field and play like there's nobody in the stands," Duffy said. "So it'll be fun."
Boston counters with righty Rubby De La Rosa, who's posted a 2.89 ERA in six starts since being recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket at the end of May. He's notched 33 strikeouts in 37 1/3 innings.
De La Rosa comes off a no-decision against the White Sox on July 9. The five-inning, three-run outing was his shortest of the season. He'd gone at least 5 2/3 innings in his previous five starts.
This will be De La Rosa'a first career start vs. the Royals.
Royals: Fenway a first for Aoki
When right fielder Nori Aoki walked into Fenway on Friday for the first game of the series, he and translator Kosuke Inaji took a quick turn through the stands to gaze at the territory he'd be defending.
It was all new to Aoki, who had previously spent two years with the Brewers in the National League without visiting Boston for Interleague Play.
"I thought my eyesight was going bad," Aoki said. "If I just look to my left, the foul pole is right there. I've seen it on TV, but it's more than I thought it was going to be. The foul pole is right there and the wall just keeps going back out from there."
Yep, that Pesky Pole does tend to loom large just 302 feet (some allege it's closer) from home plate. It was named for longtime Red Sox infielder Johnny Pesky, said to have won a game or two by hooking a home run around the pole.
Aoki was left to ponder (and consult with outfield coach Rusty Kuntz) on how best to play a ball scooting toward the curved wall beyond the pole.
"You've got to really decide if you're going to chase after the ball or go back to cut it off. Otherwise it might just go all the way around that curve," Aoki said.
Red Sox: Bogaerts starts second half well
Xander Bogaerts enjoyed a successful start to his second half by slugging a two-run home run off Kansas City starter James Shields in the Red Sox's 5-4 comeback win on Friday.
The young third baseman's homer spurred a four-run sixth inning that turned a 4-1 deficit into a 5-4 lead. He finished 1-for-3 with two runs scored, two RBIs and a walk.
It was Bogaerts' first home run since June 13. Between that date and his seventh homer on Friday, Bogaerts hit .115 in 92 plate appearances with 27 strikeouts, three walks and zero extra-base hits.
• The Royals have had better luck against the East than the other American League divisions. They're 14-10 against the East, but are just 18-22 in their own Central and 8-11 vs. the West. Against the National League, they're 8-4.
• Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz are the only active Red Sox from the 2011 squad who have faced Duffy. They're a combined 6-for-12 with five extra-base hits (four doubles, one triple) against the southpaw.
Jackson Alexander is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.