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Red Sox series preview: Fading post-season hopes

New Englanders may be left with no October baseball again.

Houston Astros v Boston Red Sox Photo by Paul Rutherford/Getty Images

New England is lovely in the fall, with the scenic foliage and typically, post-season baseball at Fenway Park. But the Red Sox find themselves hovering just over .500, 10.5 games back of a playoff spot, with a 4.4 percent chance of making the post-season, according to Fangraphs. If the Red Sox are at home this October, it will the fourth time in five years they won’t be in the post-season, and they are in danger of having back-to-back losing seasons for just the second time in the last 25 years.

A hot July gave New Englanders some hope the Sox could make a run, but they have stumbled in August, losing seven of their last ten and are coming off a home sweep to the hands of the Astros. They still have 12 games left against the Rays and Orioles, the top two teams in the east, but they’re running out of time.

Boston Red Sox (69-65) vs. Kansas City Royals (41-94) at Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City, MO

Red Sox: 4.96 runs scored/game (8th in MLB), 4.76 runs allowed/game (19th)

Royals: 3.93 runs scored/game (29th in MLB), 5.35 runs allowed/game (28th)

The Red Sox haven’t had much trouble scoring runs this year - they put a 17 on the board against the Astros in a game last week. Japanese free agent Masataka Yoshida and first baseman Triston Casas are both Rookie of the Year candidates, although Yoshida is slumping, hitting .218 with just one home run over his last 29 games. Rafael Devers is on the verge of putting up his third 30-home run season and 38-year old Justin Turner is putting up his best OPS in a full season since 2019. Boston is without centerfielder Jarren Duran, who had blossomed this year, but that gives more playing time to Adam Duvall, who was has the best OPS on the team in a reserve role.

The Red Sox have actually hit more home runs away from Fenway Park, but their offensive numbers overall on the road are much worse than they are at home, mostly due to a much lower BABIP once they get out of Fenway Park. Red Sox hitters have the seventh-lowest walk rate, but also the seventh-lowest strikeout rate. Duran was their only big stolen base threat, although Yoshida and bench player Rob Refsnyder can run a bit.

Boston is the worst-ranked team defensively by Fangraphs, with the sixth-lowest Defensive Runs Saved at -18. Alex Verdugo has been very good in right and Trevor Story has been good since coming back from injury, but the rest of the defense has played poorly.

Red Sox lineup and bench

Starting Lineup PA HR SB BA OBA SLG fWAR
Starting Lineup PA HR SB BA OBA SLG fWAR
RF Alex Verdugo (L) 525 12 4 .277 .341 .440 2.5
3B Rafael Devers (L) 542 29 2 .267 .341 .505 2.4
DH Justin Turner (R) 521 22 4 .287 .357 .488 1.9
LF Masataka Yoshida (L) 495 13 8 .295 .349 .456 0.7
CF Adam Duvall (R) 274 18 4 .276 .339 .593 2.4
1B Triston Casas (L) 445 21 0 .263 .366 .489 1.3
SS Trevor Story (R) 76 1 5 .194 .237 .306 0.0
C Connor Wong (R) 338 8 6 .248 .303 .405 1.0
2B Luis Urias (R) 134 3 0 .183 .326 .303 -0.1
C Reese McGuire (L) 162 1 1 .293 .331 .395 0.7
IF Ceddanne Rafela (R) 5 0 0 .400 .400 .600 0.1
OF Wilyer Abreu (L) 19 1 0 .353 .421 .647 0.2
OF Rob Refsnyder (R) 218 1 7 .250 .370 .317 0.3

After missing time with injury, James Paxton has his highest innings pitched total since 2019, but may be wearing down, failing to get out of the fifth innings in each of his last two starts. The 34-year old and can still bring his fastball in the mid-90s and has the 23rd-highest swinging strike rate in baseball. He tossed 5 13 innings of shutout ball against the Royals last month.

This will be the third start back for Tanner Houck after he missed two months following surgery to repair a facial fracture after he took a line drive to the face. The former Mizzou pitcher moved into a full-time starting role this year after shuttling between the bullpen and rotation the last two seasons, but his numbers have regressed a bit. He’s a sinker/slider pitcher that has induced a groundball rate of 52.2 percent.

Veteran Chris Sale also missed two months with shoulder inflammation, and he has a 5.30 ERA in the four starts since returning, although with 25 strikeouts in 18 23 innings. He has not gone more than five innings in a start since mid-May, as the team tries to keep him healthy after missing most of the last three seasons. Sale still brings a 94 mph fastball and a slider that generates whiffs 40 percent of the time, but lefties have pounded him with a line of .279/.347/.535, albeit in a small sample size.

The Royals have yet to announce starters for Saturday or Sunday. Brady Singer has been pushed back to next week, so it seems likely that Alec Marsh and Zack Greinke will get the ball.

Expected pitching matchups

Friday, September 1 - 7:10 CT ERA FIP IP K/9 BB/9 fWAR
Friday, September 1 - 7:10 CT ERA FIP IP K/9 BB/9 fWAR
LHP James Paxton 3.99 4.37 94.2 9.6 3.0 1.4
RHP Jordan Lyles 6.51 5.82 142.1 6.1 2.5 -0.1
Saturday, September 2 - 6:10 CT ERA FIP IP K/9 BB/9 fWAR
RHP Tanner Houck 4.93 4.48 76.2 8.2 3.3 0.8
RHP Alec Marsh 5.47 6.69 49.1 10.8 4.9 -0.7
Sunday, September 3 - 1:10 CT ERA FIP IP K/9 BB/9 fWAR
LHP Chris Sale 4.75 3.75 77.2 11.1 2.4 1.6
RHP Zack Greinke 5.28 4.93 119.1 6.0 1.3 0.6

Boston relievers have a 4.23 ERA, 17th-best in baseball, with the fifth-lowest strikeout rate. All-Star closer Kenley Jansen is still among the most valuable relievers in baseball, and he hasn’t blown a save since mid-May. Chris Martin has the second-lowest ERA of any pitcher with at least 40 innings, and he has given up just one run since June 9, covering 26 23 innings for an ERA of 0.34 over that time. Nick Pivetta has one of the best curveballs in baseball, but has struggled with his control.

Red Sox bullpen

Bullpen ERA FIP IP K/9 BB/9 fWAR
Bullpen ERA FIP IP K/9 BB/9 fWAR
RHP Kenley Jansen 2.74 3.29 42.2 10.8 3.2 1.3
RHP Chris Martin 1.22 2.68 44.1 7.7 1.6 1.1
RHP Josh Winckowski 3.04 3.94 71.0 8.1 2.8 0.7
RHP John Schreiber 3.86 3.94 32.2 10.2 4.4 0.3
RHP Nick Pivetta 4.53 4.31 109.1 11.5 3.7 1.0
RHP Garrett Whitlock 5.49 4.66 62.1 9.0 1.6 0.5
RHP Mauricio Llovera 3.86 4.55 21.0 9.4 4.7 0.0
LHP Joe Jacques 5.91 3.97 21.1 6.8 2.1 0.2

The reality of the standings may be facing the Red Sox, but they are still a talented team with some good hitters. They have already taken three of four from the Royals this season, and Kansas City is now facing a six-game losing streak. This may be a disappointing season for Red Sox fans, but it shows just how much higher the standards are in Boston than in Kansas City.


How will the Royals fare this series against the Red Sox?

This poll is closed

  • 8%
    Royals sweep 3-0
    (5 votes)
  • 1%
    Royals take 2 of 3
    (1 vote)
  • 50%
    Red Sox take 2 of 3
    (29 votes)
  • 39%
    Red Sox sweep
    (23 votes)
58 votes total Vote Now