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Boston Red Sox Series Preview: Welcome in the champs

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These two teams combine for three of the last six World Series titles and four of the last six AL pennants.

MLB: Cleveland Indians at Boston Red Sox
May 27, 2019; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox right fielder Mookie Betts (50) hits an rbi triple during the third inning against the Cleveland Indians at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Gregory J. Fisher
Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

The Royals return home after another disastrous road trip that saw them win only one game and there to greet them are the world champions, the Boston Red Sox. The Royals can relate a bit to a tough go after a championship, but Boston seems to at least be vaguely climbing out of their early malaise. They started 6-13, but are 24-16 since (a 97-win pace) and seem to be getting straightened out for the most part. Their offense hasn’t gotten otherworldly seasons from Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez so far, but they’re very balanced and can hit, for the most part, up and down the lineup like usual. The rotation has been an issue with even Chris Sale struggling for some time and David Price putting up the best numbers of anyone. Their re-configured bullpen has been mostly fine, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they go looking for a big arm to put in the back there where Craig Kimbrel once was. All in all, this is a team with a mediocre record that really is anything but.

Meet the Red Sox

Royals vs. Red Sox Tale of the Tape

Category Royals Red Sox
Category Royals Red Sox
Winning % .322 .508
Team wRC+ 91 104
Team xFIP 4.73 4.24
Highest fWAR Hunter Dozier, 2.3 Xander Bogaerts, 2.8

Red Sox Projected Starting Lineup

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Mookie Betts RF 269 .280 .390 .462 14.9% 14.5% 124 1.7
Andrew Benintendi LF 250 .259 .355 .410 11.6% 24.0% 102 1.0
J.D. Martinez DH 233 .294 .373 .525 10.7% 16.7% 131 1.1
Rafael Devers 3B 248 .316 .372 .498 8.1% 16.9% 127 2.0
Xander Bogaerts SS 251 .305 .386 .550 12.0% 19.1% 145 2.8
Brock Holt 2B 37 .206 .270 .235 5.4% 27.0% 35 0.0
Michael Chavis 1B 165 .264 .358 .500 10.9% 29.7% 124 1.0
Jackie Bradley, Jr. CF 194 .190 .286 .315 9.8% 28.4% 60 -0.2
Christian Vazquez C 162 .298 .340 .490 6.2% 17.3% 112 1.5

Red Sox Projected Bench

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Sandy Leon C 59 .216 .310 .353 10.2% 20.3% 77 0.2
Sam Travis 1B/OF 9 .222 .222 .222 0.0% 22.2% 10 -0.1
Eduardo Nunez INF 101 .219 .240 .281 3.0% 15.8% 31 -0.6

Red Sox Key Relievers

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Ryan Brasier 26 23.2 2 2 20.6% 8.3% 3.80 5.64 -0.2
Matt Barnes 24 23.2 2 1 43.8% 10.4% 3.04 1.72 0.6
Brandon Workman 29 26.1 3 1 37.3% 17.7% 2.05 3.4 0.6

Probable Pitching Matchups

Tuesday June 4th - 7:15pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Eduardo Rodriguez 11 60.2 5 3 25.0% 7.6% 5.04 3.91 1.1
Glenn Sparkman 10 25.2 1 1 14.9% 6.1% 4.21 4.93 0.1

Eduardo Rodriguez is one of those guys who I think you always expect to take that next step and then he ends up with numbers that are good, not great. This year, he’s basically the same pitcher as he has been, but he’s been a little more hittable than usual, and that’s led to a slightly inflated ERA. So why the increase in hits? His fastball velocity is a bit down and he’s allowed some additional hits on that, but his changeup has also been hit a little more this year too. But he’s also gotten more swings and misses and more strikeouts with it. With a low hard-hit rate, low average exit-velocity, additional swings and misses and a .345 BABIP allowed, it’s fair to think a lot of his issues have been luck-driven. But, and here’s where there’s probably reason for concern, he’s allowed a .327/.370/.673 line to lefties. Small sample, yes, but still, that’s inflated and he’s always had reverse platoon splits, even if not quite as dramatic. Oh yeah, and he probably should face 18 batters and be done (like most pitchers probably) with a .374/.446/.661 line the third time through the order. The point is that there’ll be opportunities. The Royals need to capitalize on them.

Glenn Sparkman’s second start didn’t go quite as well as his first as he was ejected for hitting Tim Anderson in the second inning. So he should at least be fresh after throwing just 24 pitches. Prior to that start, he’d thrown 18 innings in May for the Royals with just two runs allowed and five walks, so if he can find that groove in this one, that would be ideal for the Royals. What has me excited about at least seeing what Sparkman can do is the velocity he’s displayed. He didn’t get to the upper-90s in his limited time against the White Sox, maxing out at 95, but against the Yankees in an extended relief outing his last time out, he touched 97 and got some swings and misses on the heat. He’s gone to the curve over the slider this year and has seen results with opponents hitting just .182 against it in 22 at bats decided on that pitch. The Red Sox, as a team, haven’t been great when fighting curves, so that’ll be an important pitch in this one.

Wednesday June 5th - 7:15pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Chris Sale 12 68.1 1 7 34.3% 6.6% 4.35 3.30 1.5
Jakob Junis 12 67.1 4 5 20.7% 8.5% 5.35 4.46 0.4

Talk about a weird season. Chris Sale had 14 strikeouts in 18 innings in his first four starts with an ERA of 8.50. All the talk was about his velocity, which was way down early and is still down, but he’s got the swing and miss back in his game. Since then, he’s struck out double digits in six of his eight starts and has totaled 84 strikeouts in 50.1 innings with a 2.86 ERA. Any worry about Sale is likely gone. Still, the Red Sox are just 3-9 when he pitches, through very little fault of his own lately, but it’s maybe at least of note. Sale does not need to be pulled after 18 batters. The guy has allowed a .161/.221/.323 line the third time through the order, which is in line with his .189/.245/.364 last year and .227/.264/.408 in 2017. Where he’s struggled this year is in the middle of the game, maybe when he’s trying to establish some of his secondary pitches that he didn’t get to early in his starts. Once he gets those established, though, it’s good night and I anticipate the Royals will have a lot of trouble with him given how much they’ve been swinging and missing lately.

Jakob Junis looked the best he has all year in his last start in Texas, and a big credit he gave went to switching to a four-seam grip instead of a two-seam grip on his changeup. The rationale makes sense. It’s the same grip as his fastball so the pitch looks similar and is more effective. Whatever he’s doing, he’s gone back to being the guy we probably expected to start the year. In 2017, he averaged just under six innings per start, an 18.5 percent strikeout rate and five percent walk rate with a 4.16 ERA. In 2018, he averaged just under six innings per start, a 21.6 percent strikeout rate and 5.7 percent walk rate with a 4.37 ERA. In his last three starts, he’s averaged a touch more than six innings with a 26 percent strikeout rate and 7.8 percent walk rate with a 4.26 ERA. The walks are a bit up, but after a five-walk game, it’s been nice to see him get those down in the last few outings and the strikeouts are coming back as well. This is a lineup that scares me against Junis, but so did the Texas lineup and the Yankees lineup and he’s gotten the job done against both of them recently.

Thursday June 6th - 12:15pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Ryan Weber 5 18.0 1 1 16.5% 3.8% 4.50 4.51 0.2
Danny Duffy 7 40.0 3 2 19.5% 8.3% 4.05 4.95 0.7

Ryan Weber may not end up getting this start, but he’s the most likely at this point. He’s made two starts this year but got lit up by the Indians in his last start with seven runs on eight hits allowed in four innings. This was after a fantastic start against the Blue Jays. He just doesn’t have exceptional stuff, relying on a sinker/curve that isn’t really good enough to consistently get hitters out but can be effective from time to time. In his career, he’s been much stingier to righties, which means the Royals will need guys like Alex Gordon and Adalberto Mondesi to come through against him to have a shot at not looking bad against another mediocre pitcher like they did on Sunday.

Danny Duffy looked both as good as I’ve seen him this year and as bad as I’ve seen him in his last start. After two innings, I thought he might not allow a hit. After five innings, I thought he might not allow a run. And then he didn’t make it through the sixth. It was a combination of things, but the positive takeaway here is that he had another game with double-digit swinging strikes, his third straight. His command faltered in that sixth inning, which led to both his walks and then overcompensating by laying one in for Joey Gallo to crush for a grand slam. He’s had a weird year against the Rangers, pitching in 11 different innings, allowing runs in just two of them, but posting a near 9 ERA against them. The Red Sox have some serious right-handed thunder, and he hasn’t really gone to his changeup very much this year, throwing it just 45 times (all to righties). As a pitch that got him his most whiffs last year, he probably needs to find it for this one to neutralize all the right-handed pop the Red Sox will throw at him.

Prediction

The Royals almost always win one game and lose the rest. Why would I deviate from this pattern and pick anything else? Do so yourself at your own peril.

Poll

Who takes this series?

This poll is closed

  • 10%
    Royals Sweep
    (6 votes)
  • 28%
    Red Sox Sweep
    (16 votes)
  • 8%
    Royals Win Two of Three
    (5 votes)
  • 52%
    Red Sox Win Two of Three
    (30 votes)
57 votes total Vote Now