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Boston Red Sox Series Preview: Was it really just a week ago the Royals beat them in a series?

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Eight days ago feels like a lot longer.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Kansas City Royals Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

It seems like a lifetime ago at this point, but at this time last week, the Royals were enjoying an off day after taking two of three from the Boston Red Sox at home. Now, six games into a road trip that hasn’t seen a win since the first game, the Royals head to Fenway with a chance to once again get back on track against a legitimately good team. It’s no easy task with the way they’re playing. And the Red Sox are playing well too, coming off a weekend sweep of the rival New York Yankees. Not much has changed since these two teams met, at least not from the Red Sox side. The Royals don’t have Adalberto Mondesi, who was a big catalyst in both the weekend wins at Kauffman Stadium.

As I mentioned the last time these two teams played, they do have a potent offense, but it’s slightly top heavy with the heavy lifting done by Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers and J.D. Martinez. Alex Verdugo and Hunter Renfroe have been good too, but the loss of Christian Arroyo, who was hurt in Kansas City actually, doesn’t help them. But still, they can hit. It’s the starting pitching that can be inconsistent and we witnessed that in their weekend in KC with some maybe surprisingly rough performances. And we’ll see the same three starters this week that we saw in KC last weekend, which typically doesn’t mean great things for the pitchers. Alex Cora does a nice job managing that bullpen, and it’s been very good this year.

Royals vs. Red Sox Tale of the Tape

Category Royals Red Sox
Category Royals Red Sox
Winning % .434 .603
Team wRC+ 88 104
Team xFIP 4.45 4.03
Run Differential -63 42
H2H Wins 2 1
Highest fWAR Whit Merrifield, 1.9 Xander Bogaerts, 3.6

Red Sox Projected Lineup

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Michael Chavis 2B 46 .244 .261 .400 2.2% 39.1% 75 0.0
Alex Verdugo LF 305 .276 .341 .436 8.5% 23.8% 110 1.2
J.D. Martinez DH 313 .300 .361 .541 8.6% 23.0% 141 2.0
Xander Bogaerts SS 307 .330 .391 .557 9.1% 18.2% 154 3.6
Rafael Devers 3B 312 .283 .349 .577 8.3% 25.0% 144 2.9
Hunter Renfroe RF 260 .268 .327 .447 8.1% 21.5% 109 0.9
Enrique Hernandez CF 256 .228 .289 .401 6.6% 23.0% 85 0.9
Christian Vazquez C 253 .269 .312 .372 5.9% 19.4% 86 1.1
Bobby Dalbec 1B 225 .206 .258 .407 5.3% 37.8% 76 -0.3

Red Sox Projected Bench

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Connor Wong C/1B 3 .333 .333 .333 0.0% 66.7% 82 0.0
Marwin Gonzalez INF/OF 222 .192 .271 .288 6.3% 24.8% 55 -0.3
Danny Santana OF/INF 76 .145 .224 .261 7.9% 27.6% 33 -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 32 32.0 3 2 45.0% 7.5% 2.81 1.89 1.5
Adam Ottavino 35 32.0 2 2 27.7% 13.9% 2.81 4.12 0.9
Darwinzon Hernandez 29 24.0 2 2 28.8% 18.9% 3.00 4.53 -0.1

Probable Starting Pitchers

Monday - Danny Duffy vs. Garrett Richards, 6:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Danny Duffy 9 44.2 4 3 29.1% 8.2% 1.81 3.84 1.7
Garrett Richards 15 76.0 4 5 18.4% 11.2% 4.74 4.79 0.6

The one starter in this series that the Royals didn’t see in Kansas City is Garrett Richards, who at one time was one of the better young pitchers in baseball and then has fought injuries for years. He did have a solid season with the Padres last year and that earned him the $10 million deal he’s pitching on with the Red Sox right now. It isn’t going great for him. Other than his return from injury in 2019, he’s posting his worst walk rate since 2011 and his worst strikeout rate since 2012. His fastball velocity is the lowest of his career, averaging 94.1 MPH and it’s been hit pretty hard. But that’s not as troubling as the fact that his slider is getting destroyed. In 2020, he allowed a .147 average and a .333 SLG on the slider. This year, that’s jumped to .325 and .494 respectively. The whiff rate has fallen from 39.2 percent to 26 percent. That’s not good. Fenway hasn’t been kind at all to him as he has a 6.46 ERA at home in five starts, but strangely hasn’t allowed a homer there compared to eight on the road. But he’s walked more than he’s struck out at home. In a not-so-great split for the Royals given their issues, he’s much better once runners get on and in scoring position.

The Royals will go with Danny Duffy in his second start and third appearance since coming off the injured list. Mike Matheny mentioned that he would be using Duffy in a bit of a different way, so they’re not going to push him to 100 pitches, which means he’s likely a three or four inning pitcher now. That’s not quite an opener but not quite a fully stretched out starter, so it’s kind of hard to say how this will work moving forward. Carlos Hernandez is a nice piggyback with Duffy as far as difference in stuff and which arm he throws with, so I would assume he’ll be next out. As for Duffy, he’s looked good in what is now three innings off the injured list with his slider spin rate staying up and his fastball looking especially sharp. He’s had his issues at Fenway in the past, but Mookie Betts isn’t here to destroy him anymore, so that’s a good thing.

Tuesday - Brad Keller vs. Nick Pivetta, 6:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Brad Keller 16 76.0 6 8 18.5% 10.2% 6.39 4.58 0.1
Nick Pivetta 15 81.0 6 3 27.6% 11.1% 4.00 4.31 1.3

Now we’re into guys we just saw, so I won’t go into quite so much detail. Against the Royals, Nick Pivetta went five innings and give up three runs on six hits including one monster home run off the bat of Mondesi. But in his next start, he was outstanding, throwing 6.2 hitless innings with eight strikeouts and two walks. He’s not the most pitch efficient guy in the world, so he was at 100 pitches and Cora chose to pull him and the Red Sox ended up losing 1-0, but still, 6.2 hitless innings is nothing to sneeze at. Without Mondesi in the lineup, there aren’t many who hit him well in that start last weekend, but I could see one of Jorge Soler’s lazy fly balls to left hurting him in this ballpark.

Brad Keller sure looked like he might have figured some things out for awhile in making him at least effective. From May 7 through June 4, he made six starts and threw 33.1 innings with a 3.78 ERA. He had more strikeouts than innings and walked just 13 in that time, which is pretty good for him. In four starts since then, he’s thrown 20.1 innings with an ERA of 8.85 and has 20 strikeouts and 12 walks. His slider has gotten hit around in his last two starts specifically, so if he’s going to find a way to get back on track, it’s going to be because of that. He gave up five runs on five hits in five innings against the Red Sox last weekend, and that won’t cut it if he does that again.

Wednesday - Mike Minor vs. Martin Perez, 6:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Mike Minor 16 91.1 6 5 24.5% 7.0% 5.12 4.09 1.5
Martin Perez 15 70.1 5 4 19.3% 8.4% 4.09 4.66 0.7

When Martin Perez faced the Royals last weekend, he was coming off two starts where he’d gone a total of 3.1 innings with 11 runs on 12 hits and four home runs allowed. So he promptly gave up a run on three hits in five innings. He’s not a pitcher that the Red Sox trust to throw a lot of pitches, so he was pulled after 78, but it was the lone win of the weekend so all worked out for Boston. He gave up three unearned runs on six hits in 3.2 innings against the Yankees and had just three swinging strikes. So while it wasn’t as bad an outing as the ones he was coming off in his last outing against the Royals, he’ll look to get right against a struggling offense that is probably more bad than struggling. He’s given up all eight of the home runs he’s allowed to righties this season, so I’d like to see this as an opportunity to get Salvador Perez a day off behind the plate and DHing him.

While Mike Minor is coming off one of the worst starts of his career in Texas when he allowed nine runs in five innings, the start before that was against the Red Sox was really good. He gave up just two runs in 6.2 innings with six strikeouts and one walk. He was working around trouble all game, though with nine hits allowed, so maybe the bad start in Texas should have been seen coming. Minor has been pretty good in Fenway in his career. He’s going to need to work the top of the zone with his fastball and keep righties from pulling the ball over that short monster in left field.

Thursday - Kyle Zimmer/Kris Bubic vs. Nathan Eovaldi, 12:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Kyle Zimmer 27 30.0 3 0 26.5% 12.4% 2.40 4.14 0.4
Kris Bubic 13 48.1 2 3 19.4% 11.4% 4.47 4.76 -0.2
Nathan Eovaldi 16 90.2 8 4 22.0% 5.0% 3.67 3.55 2.8

I was honestly pretty shocked at how easily the Royals handled Nathan Eovaldi in the series finale in Kansas City. He gave up four runs (three earned) on seven hits and only lasted four innings. It took him 87 pitches to get through that, which is even more amazing because he threw just six pitches in a very fast 1-2-3 first. He was victimized by that outstanding at bat from Jarrod Dyson that was what seemed like the Royals first big hit in a month. He bounced back against the Yankees with 7.2 innings and just one run allowed, so he’s probably coming into this start with some added confidence. The Royals hit around his four-seamer last weekend, so I wonder if we see him go off-speed more in this one. He gave up a couple hits on the slider, but was getting some ugly swings on it.

I’m assuming the Royals go with their opener of Kyle Zimmer and the bulk innings (hopefully) from Kris Bubic. It’ll be the third opener start for Zimmer and he hasn’t allowed a run in the first two, so that’s a good thing. I really like the idea of opening with one guy and then the bulk guy being very different than the opener, so I like the pairing of these two. The issue is that we really don’t know which Bubic we’ll see. He was hit early against the Red Sox last weekend in that first game of the series but did end up settling down. Then he might have been as good as we’ve ever seen him in New York with 2.1 perfect innings. And then he might have been as bad as we’ve ever seen him in Texas, with him needing 40 pitches to get just two outs after a Zimmer opening inning. If his changeup is hanging, this is the wrong lineup and the wrong park to do that in. He’s going to need his curve to set things up, and I have to say that I’m not optimistic after what we see on Saturday.

Prediction

I don’t think I’ve reached the point in the losing streak where I refuse to predict a win, although I sort of wonder how they’re going to get one if they couldn’t even beat the Rangers. But I said that last series wondering how they’d beat the Red Sox if they couldn’t even beat the Tigers and they won two of three. So I’m going to be super optimistic here and say the Royals can take one of four this week.

Poll

One game. Just one game. Can they win one game?

This poll is closed

  • 2%
    They’ll win more than one. Royals are sweeping the Red Sox.
    (2 votes)
  • 2%
    It’s a three of four win kind of week for the Royals in Boston.
    (2 votes)
  • 33%
    They’ll leave with a split.
    (25 votes)
  • 38%
    Yep, just the one, though.
    (29 votes)
  • 22%
    Nope. Red Sox sweep and the losing streak hits nine.
    (17 votes)
75 votes total Vote Now