Maybe David Ortiz will be back today! And maybe Jon Lester will continue his resurgent ways! There's a whole lot of maybe going on with this series against the Royals, as we collectively wonder if it's in the best interests of the Red Sox to lose more for draft position, or to salvage their season to finish respectably. The latter likely means a brighter near-term future, as a lot of the positive pieces for that kind of run would be involved in next year's squad, whereas you don't quite know what being a few ticks higher in the draft would accomplish differently.
But hey, back to the realm of non-hypothetical baseball. We find that the Red Sox are facing the Royals in a three-game weekend series. Maybe I was okay with losing to the Angels, as it somewhat sealed the deal on the season, but losing to the Royals violates the laws of nature, and I won't be having any of that in my season. Better draft position is one thing, but I don't want the universe to swallow itself just for a protected pick.
Game 1: Bruce Chen (140-1/3 IP, 3.0 K/BB, 76 ERA+) vs. Jon Lester (154 IP, 2.9 K/BB, 87 ERA+)
Bruce Chen, the preeminent left-baller of our time, is having a rough go of things with the Royals this year. Like Lester, he's been able to keep those K/BB numbers looking good, but the rest hasn't quite fallen into place, with things getting worse rather than better in the season's second half. Lester has been very good as of late, twirling a 3.48 ERA since his disaster against the Jays, a start he's put some distance behind both on the calendar and in his results.
Jeremy Guthrie was just horrific with the Rockies, but since coming back to the AL, and at an acceptable altitude for baseball, he's reverted to his normal, productive self. That's bad news for Boston, but if Beckett can toss another solid outing, Guthrie shouldn't be too much to overcome. That's a big if, of course, given how things have been for Beckett as of late.
Felix Doubront will return from the disabled list in time for Sunday's start against the Royals. The break he received for a knee contusion might end up being good for him, as he had started to struggle heading into the All-Star break, and has been poor since, posting a 1.3 K/BB with 22 strikeouts in 26-plus innings since. Hopefully his control will return to him post-breather, and we can go back to being hopeful about Doubront's 2013 as a back-end starter.
He'll take on Will Smith, a pitcher the Royals acquired in the Alberto Callaspo/Sean O'Sullivan trade back in 2010. Smith has had something of a mixed start to his major-league career, but he's also just 22 years old, and has had some solid stints in the high minors. He was the #22 prospect in the system via Baseball America heading into the year, so while he might not be a game-changing arm, there could be something here.
The whole lineup is around to face the Sox -- well, unless you had your hopes on top prospect Wil Myers getting major-league at-bats instead of Jeff Francoeur and his .240/.287/.372 line -- but it's not quite what the Sox remember, either. Johnny Giavotella is listed as the second baseman on the depth chart these days. Lorenzo Cain has returned from the DL since the last time the Sox faced KC, and he's manning center field. His bat has been either powerful or awful to this point, but he has the capability to be productive in a way that, say, Jarrod Dyson does not. There are a lot of young and exciting bats here, though, and when things come together for the Royals, this could be a pretty scary lineup for opposing pitchers.