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Boston Red Sox Series Preview: If the Royals can’t beat the Tigers...

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The Red Sox are good. The Royals are not, at least not right now. This could get even uglier.

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Boston Red Sox Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

In the midst of a six-game losing streak and with losses in 11 of their last 12, the Royals welcome in the second best team in the AL East, the Boston Red Sox. After a year of struggles in 2020, the Red Sox hired back their once suspended manager, Alex Cora, and are back on the plus side of the ledger in just about everything in 2021 as one of the best teams in the American League. You wouldn’t expect a team in one of the game’s bigger markets to be quietly this good, but that’s the situation we have here with a couple players who are among the best in baseball who seem to be talked about way less than you’d expect from a team in Boston.

Everyone knows about J.D. Martinez, who has bounced back in a huge way from his down 2020 to have a typical huge year this year, but I feel like we don’t hear nearly enough about Xander Bogaerts or Rafael Devers given how good they are. They also have Alex Verdugo playing well, Christian Arroyo putting up some decent numbers and Hunter Renfroe having a solid season for them in right field mostly. The pitching was humming along until the end of May. Since then, they’ve posted a 5.42 ERA in 17 games with 29 home runs allowed and they’ve had issues with walks, averaging about four issued per game. The rotation has struggled a bit, but they do have a solid back end of their bullpen, so the Royals might want to try taking a lead, something they haven’t done much of since the last homestand.

Royals vs. Red Sox Tale of the Tape

Category Royals Red Sox
Category Royals Red Sox
Winning % .448 .609
Team wRC+ 90 103
Team xFIP 4.32 3.97
Run Differential -40 34
Highest fWAR Salvador Perez and Danny Duffy, 1.6 Xander Bogaerts, 3.2

Red Sox Projected Lineup

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Enrique Hernandez CF 222 .224 .279 .371 5.9% 23.9% 76 0.4
Alex Verdugo LF 263 .289 .346 .464 7.6% 12.2% 119 1.3
J.D. Martinez DH 273 .309 .370 .545 8.8% 22.7% 145 1.9
Xander Bogaerts SS 269 .325 .387 .571 8.9% 19.3% 157 3.4
Rafael Devers 3B 275 .283 .349 .567 8.4% 25.1% 142 2.3
Hunter Renfroe RF 223 .261 .318 .443 7.6% 22.4% 106 0.8
Christian Vazquez C 222 .257 .302 .354 5.9% 19.8% 79 0.7
Christian Arroyo 2B 130 .265 .328 .444 3.8% 26.9% 111 1.0
Bobby Dalbec 1B 202 .201 .252 .397 5.4% 37.1% 73 -0.4

Red Sox Projected Bench

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Kevin Plawecki C/1B 69 .258 .324 .355 7.2% 17.4% 88 -0.2
Marwin Gonzalez INF/OF 207 .196 .277 .299 6.8% 24.2% 60 -0.2
Danny Santana OF/INF 53 .104 .189 .271 7.5% 30.2% 24 -0.3

Red Sox Key Relievers

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Matt Barnes 29 29.1 3 1 48.1% 6.5% 3.07 1.58 1.5
Adam Ottavino 31 28.0 2 2 28.3% 14.2% 2.89 4.08 0.6
Darwinzon Hernandez 26 21.0 1 2 30.6% 19.4% 3.00 4.55 -0.1

Probable Starting Pitchers

June 18 - Nick Pivetta vs. Kyle Zimmer and Friends, 7:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Nick Pivetta 13 69.1 6 2 27.2% 11.2% 4.28 4.36 1.0
Kyle Zimmer 22 24.2 3 0 26.4% 11.0% 2.19 4.00 0.5

The Red Sox picked up Nick Pivetta from the Phillies last season, and had hoped that they could get the best out of him where the Phillies hadn’t been able to. In two starts last year, he was great, and he’s carried it over to be pretty solid this season. He throws his four-seamer about half the time and he’s throwing it significantly harder than he did last season and it’s showing up in the results with an opponent’s average about 60 points lower and an SLG more than 300 points lower. It’s been a good pitch for him this year. He uses a slider mostly against righties and his curve against everyone and both have been solid for him this year. Pivetta is not someone likely to be around long in a game. He can be had in the first, but then settles down through the fourth. He starts to run into trouble in the fifth and has only pitched past the sixth once this season.

This will be the first Opener situation of the year for the Royals, going with Kyle Zimmer who did it once last season and a few times in Omaha in 2019. Behind him, both Kris Bubic and Jackson Kowar are options. I sort of like the idea of gearing a lineup to a guy like Zimmer and then going with a guy like Bubic, but the Royals are being mindful of both innings and ineffectiveness, so maybe we see both of them. I think the ideal world for the Royals is Zimmer gets through two and then Bubic and Kowar finish out the combined no-hitter, but I’m not going to hold my breath there.

June 19 - Martin Perez vs. Brad Keller, 3:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Martin Perez 13 61.2 4 4 19.8% 8.1% 4.52 4.69 0.5
Brad Keller 14 66.0 6 6 19.2% 9.6% 6.14 4.32 0.4

Martin Perez has had sort of a weird career, looking like a potential solid starter in Texas before falling off the map. Then the Twins signed him and he was throwing hard and looking as good as ever and then he fell off the map. Then the Red Sox picked him up and he’s been generally fine for them, and there are worse things than a pitcher being generally fine. Of course, like the Royals, he hasn’t gotten to where he is normally. In fact, just two starts ago, he was rocking a 3.09 ERA. In his last two starts, he’s gone 3.1 innings with a 29.70 ERA with 11 runs on 12 hits and four home runs allowed. He works with a cutter, sinker and changeup mostly and mixes in curves and four-seam fastballs. His cutter and changeup have been mashed, so if the Royals are going to succeed, it’s likely going to be on those two pitches.

Brad Keller continues to be a conundrum. Now he’s saying that he thinks he’s throwing well, but the results haven’t been there. I keep thinking about his start in Anaheim that was blown up by some terrible umpiring, but he just isn’t able to put guys away. Prior to that start, he was on whatever the mediocre version of a roll was, but then he’s gotten roughed up again the last two times out. On the plus side, he’s walked 0 or 1 batter in two of his last three starts, which is good and he did get back to some ground balls against the Tigers. I just don’t know what to make of him right now.

June 20 - Nathan Eovaldi vs. Mike Minor, 1:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Nathan Eovaldi 14 79.2 7 3 22.3% 5.4% 3.76 3.69 2.4
Mike Minor 14 19.2 5 4 26.3% 7.3% 4.63 4.03 1.2

Nathan Eovaldi was a World Series hero for Boston in 2018 and that earned him a four year deal worth $68 million following the season. His 2019 was one to forget, but he was pretty good last year and he’s been really good this year too with just three home runs allowed in 79 innings. Two of his three home runs have been allowed this month, so there’s that, but he also just faced a ridiculously powerful Blue Jays lineup and shut them down, so this is a tough one. He throws hard and he uses the fastball a lot, just a bit over 44 percent of the time. It averages 97 MPH, but he does give up some hits on it, though not much power. His curve and slider are his swing and miss pitches while his cutter and split-finger can be used to just get outs. He’s been way better against lefties this season with an OPS allowed 245 points lower than that to righties. But he does have a pretty standard third time through the order penalty, so he can be beaten late.

Mike Minor wasn’t horrible in his last start against Detroit, but he also wasn’t good. On the bright side, he struck out five in 5.2 innings and didn’t walk anyone. He’s now struck out 56 and walked 11 in his last eight starts, spanning 48.2 innings with a 4.25 ERA. That’s perfectly solid. On the down side, he’s had a bit of an issue with the home run ball this month with five allowed in three starts. This is a Boston lineup that actually hasn’t done as well against lefties as righties, which is a bit surprising with guys like Martinez and Bogaerts, but Minor’s changeup could be a neutralizer if it’s working in this one.

Prediction

I’m back on the bandwagon of not predicting any wins until they actually get one, so I’m calling for a Red Sox sweep. That’s my whole logic and I’m good with that.

Poll

Can the Royals get A win?

This poll is closed

  • 8%
    One? They’ll get three and sweep Boston.
    (13 votes)
  • 11%
    They can not only get a win, but they can win two out of three.
    (17 votes)
  • 41%
    Yes, exactly one.
    (60 votes)
  • 37%
    You crazy? No. They’re not winning a game. Red Sox sweep.
    (55 votes)
145 votes total Vote Now