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Boston Red Sox series preview: Good wood, strong arms

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Mookie and the Boys are formidable foes

These guys are good.
These guys are good.
Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Winners of 15 of their last 18, the World Champion Kansas City Royals are on fire and heading into Fenway to face the co-owners of the American League East Division lead, the Boston Red Sox. The Royals have little margin for error as they have a lot of ground to make up if they want to make the playoffs for their third straight year. The Red Sox are the highest-scoring offense in the game and are a nightmare match-up for any team with little room for error.

*All stats courtesy of FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference

Pitching match-ups

Game One - Friday, 6:10 PM CDT

Pitcher G IP K BB ERA FIP xFIP SIERA fWAR rWAR
Ian Kennedy 25 148.1 145 46 3.58 4.80 4.54 4.07 1.0 2.9
Steven Wright 22 146.2 123 51 3.01 3.39 4.43 4.41 3.2 2.5

The sardonic Steven Wright returns from the disabled list to make his first start since throwing a 119-pitch complete game, however it wasn't the pitching that landed him there. No, he hurt his shoulder pinch-running because that makes sense. While the knuckle-baller started the season red hot, his last eight starts have been decidedly less impressive. Even with that complete-game shut-out, his ERA over his last 48.1 innings has been 5.03, while allowing a triple-slash of .273/.332/.387. In that stretch, he also allowed an additional seven unearned runs. To say teams have scored with ease while Wright has been on the mound for the past two months would be an accurate statement.

Game Two - Saturday, 6:10 PM CDT

Pitcher G IP K BB ERA FIP xFIP SIERA fWAR rWAR
Danny Duffy (L) 35 138.2 147 29 2.66 3.21 3.75 3.38 3.2 4.3
David Price (L) 27 177.2 179 39 4.00 3.45 3.46 3.56 3.7 2.6

After a brutal April and May, David Price has settled back into being David Price, at least in the earned runs department. David Price really wasn't ever not David Price, but few seemed to want to look at his 2.48 FIP / 5.76 ERA first month of the season and ignore the ugly ERA. His 24.2 K% is better than his career 23.5% mark. His 5.3 BB% is better than his 6.2% mark. His HR/FB% is at its highest mark of his career, but whose isn't? This David Price is still the David Price that the Royals should be worrying about.

Game Three - Sunday, 7:08 PM CDT

Pitcher G IP K BB ERA FIP xFIP SIERA fWAR rWAR
Yordano Ventura 25 145.1 114 58 4.27 4.69 4.49 4.60 1.0 1.5
Eduardo Rodriguez (L) 13 68.2 60 24 5.11 4.91 4.70 4.55 0.4 0.2

Since his 2.2 inning disaster against the Rays in which he allowed nine earned, Rodriguez has been a different pitcher. In the seven starts and 39.1 innings that have come since July 16, he has struck out 39 while walking 12, holding a 2.52 ERA and 3.40 FIP over that time. Of course he left his last start four innings into a no-hitter with a hamstring injury, so this will be his first start back. The Royals have to be hoping for a little bit of rust and/or tightness.

The Batsmen

Name Pos PA HR R RBI SB BA OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ fWAR rWAR
Dustin Pedroia 2B 548 12 83 55 7 .306 .371 .444 .354 118 3.9 4.5
Xander Bogaerts SS 561 15 89 71 13 .307 .364 .446 .351 116 4.0 2.4
David Ortiz (L) DH 490 30 62 100 2 .322 .412 .637 .430 170 4.0 4.3
Mookie Betts RF 574 28 99 90 21 .314 .355 .555 .383 138 6.0 7.1
Hanley Ramirez 1B 475 16 60 77 8 .277 .349 .455 .344 111 1.2 1.4
Jackie Bradley Jr. (L) CF 498 21 73 72 7 .272 .351 .503 .362 123 3.9 4.6
Sandy Leon (S) C 176 7 28 26 0 .369 .425 .618 .437 175 2.8 2.5
Travis Shaw (L) 3B 442 14 53 60 4 .248 .317 .434 .319 94 1.7 1.7
Brock Holt (L) LF 250 6 35 29 3 .251 .317 .381 .305 84 -0.2 0.6
Bench Pos PA HR R RBI SB BA OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ fWAR rWAR
Bryan Holaday C 21 0 1 1 0 .150 .190 .150 .158 -17 -0.2 -0.2
Aaron Hill IF 94 1 9 5 0 .209 .277 .267 .242 41 -0.2 -0.4
Marco Hernandez (L) IF 49 1 7 5 1 .295 .367 .386 .334 104 -0.1 0.7
Chris Young OF 147 6 16 16 2 .278 .347 .511 .365 125 0.6 0.5

Stats through Wednesday, August 24

There is no way to look at this lineup and not get worried if you are a Royals fan. There's a ton of talent in the top two-thirds of the order. Mookie Betts is one of the game's best players and is complemented by the likes of David Ortiz, Jackie Bradley Jr., Xander Bogaerts, and Dustin Pedroia. Catcher Sandy Leon has come from nowhere to make the Red Sox forget all about Blake Swihart. Andrew Benintendi came up and produced immediately before finding his way to the disabled list on Wednesday. Their 114 wRC+ as a team is seven points better than any other team. Their .348 wOBA is .010 better than the next best team, the Colorado Rockies. They're really damn good and have scored nearly 200 more runs than the Royals this season. It will take a lot for the Royals to match their firepower.

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