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Royals series preview: The Boston Red Sox

Sale and his merry band of rouge legs come to town

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MLB: Boston Red Sox at Philadelphia Phillies
Slinger.
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

With the Royals coming off a strong West Coast road trip, they come home within spitting distance of .500, the second Wild Card spot, and the Central division lead. Standing in their immediate way? The visiting Boston Red Sox. Boston shares the lead in the American League East with the New York Yankees, thanks in large part to a pitching staff that ranks third in baseball in fWAR. A huge chunk of that fWAR has been care of off-season acquisition Chris Sale, who the Royals will face in the second game of the series.

Here are the game times and pitching matchups for the upcoming series:

  • Monday, June 19, 7:15 PM CDT - Hector Velázquez versus Jason Hammel
  • Tuesday, June 20, 7:15 PM CDT - Chris Sale (L) versus Matt Strahm (L)
  • Wednesday, June 21, 1:15 PM CDT - Drew Pomeranz (L) versus Ian Kennedy

Red Sox at Royals pitching matchups

Pitcher G IP K K% BB BB% ERA FIP xFIP SIERA fWAR rWAR
Pitcher G IP K K% BB BB% ERA FIP xFIP SIERA fWAR rWAR
Hector Velázquez 2 8.1 6 17.1 3 8.6 6.48 7.45 4.27 4.53 -0.2 -0.2
Jason Hammel 13 71.1 54 17.5 24 7.5 5.05 4.41 5.32 4.95 0.9 0.5
Chris Sale (L) 14 99.0 136 35.2 18 4.7 2.82 1.78 2.61 2.59 4.5 2.9
Matt Strahm (L) 21 27.0 29 25.9 19 17 3.67 5.13 4.92 4.84 -0.1 0.4
Drew Pomeranz (L) 13 66.2 77 26.6 24 8.3 4.19 4.05 3.69 3.82 1.0 0.8
Ian Kennedy 12 62.2 53 20.5 29 11.2 5.03 5.36 5.32 5.00 0.0 0.6

Starting with Monday’s opposing starter, Hector Velázquez stepped into the rotation to take the place of injured starter Brian Johnson. The 28-year-old right-hander was pitching in the Mexican League for the Aceceros del Norte of Monclova, Coahuila until this season, when the Red Sox signed him to a minor-league deal. His 2016 season was really the first in which his on-field results showed any hope for a possible major-league talent. His two-seamer is his primary offering, and in his first major-league start, he mixed in sinkers, change-ups, sliders, and a couple curves per PitchFX’s identification system. While he threw a diverse mix of pitches, it doesn’t look as though he enjoyed too much success his first time out.

Chris Sale, on the other hand, is arguably pitching better than any hurler in the game. His fWAR is 1.4 wins better than the next best pitcher, Max Scherzer. The only hope the Royals have to cling to with Sale is that they’ve seen him A LOT over the past eight seasons, and they’ve kind of had his number.

Drew Pomeranz is enjoying his best season as a starter. His K-BB% is 1.1 better than it was in his breakout 2016 campaign. His walk-rates are lower than every season he’s put up other than his rookie campaign, when he was not striking guys out nearly as often. Really, just hits in the HR/FB% and BABIP departments have kept his ERA on the wrong side of 4.00, but the areas over which he has control show he’s pitching better than ever.

Red Sox position players

Player Pos PA HR R RBI SB AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ fWAR rWAR
Player Pos PA HR R RBI SB AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ fWAR rWAR
Mookie Betts RF 303 12 45 38 11 .279 .360 .498 .362 122 2.9 3.5
Xander Bogaerts SS 281 4 43 30 8 .318 .370 .465 .357 119 2.5 1.8
Jackie Bradley Jr. (L) CF 207 8 22 29 2 .250 .343 .456 .337 105 1.2 1.9
Mitch Moreland (L) RF 264 9 35 37 0 .275 .367 .472 .354 117 0.9 1.4
Dustin Pedroia 2B 244 2 24 25 2 .296 .368 .376 .327 98 0.8 0.6
Andrew Benintendi (L) LF 280 9 35 39 8 .272 .341 .420 .323 95 0.7 1.0
Christian Vázquez C 125 0 8 13 2 .305 .336 .407 .320 93 0.3 -0.1
Sandy Leon (S) C 141 4 14 16 0 .225 .279 .357 .272 61 0.0 0.1
Hanley Ramirez DH 236 9 27 26 1 .240 .343 .402 .323 95 -0.3 0.1
Josh Rutledge IF 106 0 9 9 1 .240 .311 .281 .269 58 -0.3 -0.3
Chris Young OF 137 3 17 13 2 .262 .336 .393 .318 92 -0.3 -0.2
Pablo Sandoval (S) 3B 105 4 10 12 0 .208 .267 .354 .269 58 -0.5 -0.8

The Sawx position players have amassed 7.8 fWAR, a very middle-of-the-road 15th-best in baseball. Their .266/.337/.413 triple-slash with a .322 wOBA has been good for just a 95 wRC+, a surprisingly anemic mark for an offense with such a solid core. Getting sub-zero production out of your primary designated hitter and third baseman will do that, apparently. Pablo Sandoval has been bad enough that Mike Moustakas’s name has been mentioned thrice daily in trade rumors and speculation with the Red Sox. With the Red Sox needing to maintain pace with the Yankees atop the AL East, they don’t have the luxury of patience with Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez, despite their enormous salaries both present and future. Dustin Pedroia left yesterday’s game in Houston after being hit by a James Hoyt fastball. He was taken to an area hospital for X-rays after some swell in the left lat and rib cage areas and could miss some of this series.

Poll

How will the Royals fare against the Red Sox?

This poll is closed

  • 12%
    Royals sweep
    (51 votes)
  • 52%
    Royals take two of three
    (223 votes)
  • 30%
    Red Sox take two of three
    (129 votes)
  • 4%
    Red Sox sweep
    (20 votes)
423 votes total Vote Now

All stats courtesy of FanGraphs and Baseball Reference through action on Sunday, June 18.

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