The Royals are a team with both holes and potential. There are plenty of promising young players on the roster -- Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Danny Duffy, Alcides Escobar, Billy Butler -- but there are also plenty who won't be around when the team is finally relevant in the standings again. For the most part, those irrelevant players live in the rotation, and the Red Sox will have to hope they can mash off of them, more so than the Royals' lineup can off of their own pitching.
Game 1: Jonathan Sanchez (22-1/3 IP, 0.8 K/BB, 78 ERA+) vs. Felix Doubront (26 IP, 2.5 K/BB, 81 ERA+)
Game 2: Danny Duffy (22-2/3 IP, 2.2 K/BB, 115 ERA+) vs. Daniel Bard (24-2/3 IP, 1.7 K/BB, 96 ERA+)
Game 3: Bruce Chen (34-1/3 IP, 3.1 K/BB, 82 ERA+) vs. Jon Lester (37 IP, 1.5 K/BB, 91 ERA+)
You know the game by now. Boston's chances of pitching well depends on which version of these starters shows up. The 25-plus innings from the bullpen this past weekend means Felix Doubront needs to have a longer start than usual tonight, and cannot suffer another four-inning appearance like his last outing against the A's. He'll need to locate his two-seamer much better this time to avoid that.
He'll be facing a pitcher with his own perpetual command and control issues in Jonathan Sanchez. The lefty is difficult to hit, but when given the chance, will walk his way into trouble. The Red Sox will need to be patient to beat him, but they're certainly capable, as many others have been before when facing the southpaw.
Duffy is arguably the team's best pitcher right now, and he's all of 23 years old. His career started out rough after a mid-season call-up in 2011, but taking a beating seems to have helped him learn a thing or two about what does and doesn't work against major-league hitters. The season is young, but he hasn't struggled with his K/BB thanks to plenty of missed bats. Bard is in a similar situation, as his success depends on how efficient he can be. If he's able to establish his slider like he has in every start except for his latest, this should be another solid outing.
Lester looked decent enough against Baltimore, but threw too many pitches too soon, and was out after six frames. With the Red Sox far from finishing their 20 games in 20 days stretch, a long outing from Lester would be a great way to finish the series for a bullpen that will surely need a breather by then.
Hosmer has started off the year slow, but he's shown himself capable of hitting big-league pitching already, and is likely a future stud. He's all of 22 years old now -- a full year younger than the newest Red Sox, Will Middlebrooks -- and has still hit for power even with his batting average problems in 2012. Moustakas, surprisingly, is the one who has had a great start to the year. His 2011 was nowhere near as productive as Hosmer's but his OPS is over 900 courtesy of four homers and 14 extra-base hits overall.
Combine those two with Butler and Alex Gordon, and you have the makings of a solid lineup. It's not without its flaws, but with the way Boston has pitched lately, they don't need to be perfect to be dangerous.