Tied for first place in the American League East, the Boston Red Sox come to Kansas City to face a Royals squad that looks to have righted the ship. A hot streak on a jaunt through the American West has put the Royals back in contention thanks in large part to only three AL teams distinguishing themselves from the rest of the league as obvious contenders. A win tonight would put the Royals' record at 34-35, a mark that seemed impossible when their record sat at 10-20.
Tonight's matchup marks the game in the series where the matchups most clearly favor the Royals, as Jason Hammel faces off against Hector Velázquez, a 28-year-old whose only experience in affiliated ball has come this year after pitching the first seven years of his professional career in the Mexican League with varying degrees of success. Whether he figured it all out last year or not has yet to be determined, but 2016 marked the first time that the right-hander looked the part of a potential major-leaguer. Such a long track record of mediocrity has to at least cast some doubt as to whether he's anything more than a guy who can eat some innings in the rotation when injuries force a team's hand.
Hammel is in the midst of a strong stretch. His last five starts have seen him throw 30.2 innings allowing just 12 runs on 27 hits while striking out 24 and walking just seven.
The Red Sox lineup looks something like this:
These are the Royals tonight: