SB Nation Blog
The Opponent in one sentence
The Royals have had a disappointing year in what was supposed to be their final season in contention with the current group thanks to the worst offense in the American League.
Up. For as poorly as the season has gone for Kansas City, they’ve been playing much better of late. After their win on Sunday, the Royals have won seven of their last eight games and nine of their last twelve. Now, before you get too worried the bulk of that stretch has come against bad teams in the Padres, Giants and Angels. This is a big series for the Royals to see who they really are.
6/19: Hector Velazquez vs. Jason Hammel, 8:15 PM ET
Hector Velazquez has been inserted into the Red Sox rotation thanks to a shoulder injury to Brian Johnson. Monday’s outing will be his second start of his major-league career, and it goes without saying that he’s hoping this one will go better than his first in Oakland. Fortunately, he’s coming off an outstanding relief appearance on the day Johnson went down. Velazquez isn’t going to blow anyone away with his stuff, so it’ll be all about command. As long as he’s not leaving pitches right out over the plate he should be able to keep the Red Sox lineup in the game.
Hammel has long been a solid-but-unspectacular pitcher in this league, but he’s had a rough start to this season. Through his first 13 starts this year, the righty has a 5.05 ERA with a 4.37 FIP and a 5.09 DRA. After an uptick in strikeouts over the last few seasons, his rate has fallen down below seven per nine innings in 2017. His control has also continued to trend in the wrong direction and he’s allowing more hard contact than he has in a long time while also inducing fewer ground balls than ever. On the other hand, he has been very good in his three June starts with a 2.21 ERA over 20 1⁄3 innings with 15 strikeouts and just one walk. Hammel will feature a fastball and a sinker — both in the low-to-mid-90s — as well as a mid-80s slider.
6/20: Chris Sale vs. Matt Strahm, 8:15 PM ET
Tuesday is Sale Day, the best day of the week. The ace’s last time out against the Phillies was a lot like the Sale starts that invigorated us at the beginning of the season. He had his best strikeout stuff going all throughout his start and the opponents were utterly hopeless for essentially the entire game. There’s little reason to expect much different this time out against the Royals’ offense. Hopefully, the Red Sox lineup doesn’t hand him another 1-0 loss.
Strahm is an extremely talented young lefty who has shown off big time strikeout stuff and the ability to induce ground balls. However, most of that success has come in the bullpen, as he’s made 40 of his 41 career appearances in relief. For all of his potential, there’s no guarantee his stuff will carry over into longer appearances. The 25-year-old did make his first career start last week when he allowed just one unearned run over five innings while allowing just three hits and one walk. He did only record three strikeouts, though. He will feature a fastball, slider, curveball and changeup.
6/21: Drew Pomeranz vs. Ian Kennedy, 2:15 PM ET
Pomeranz is coming off a great outing his last time out against the Astros after a couple of discouraging outings prior to that. As has been said a million times to this point, it all comes down to efficiency with the Red Sox lefty. Things are obviously better if he has all three pitches working, but his last time out against the Astros didn’t even feature that many cutters and he still had success. If he’s able to work the edges of the strike zone without allowing too many free passes, Boston should be able to get six or seven strong innings from Pomeranz in this one.
Kennedy has been a boringly but solid-average pitcher over the last few years, but it looks like the wheels are falling off this season. The flyball pitcher has always relied on his outfield defense to make plays, but he has also gotten more strikeouts over the last few years. This season, his rate has fallen below eight per nine innings for the first time since 2013. He’s also lost his control with a career-worst 4.2 walks per nine. All together he has a 5.03 ERA with a 5.33 FIP and a 5.70 DRA over his first 12 starts. Kennedy leans heavily on a low-to-mid-90s fastball as well as a changeup, curveball and cutter.
None. Stupid Royals.
Mike Moustakas is someone Red Sox fans will want to keep an eye on this week. The third baseman will undoubtedly come up in trade rumors from now through the trade deadline since he’s an upcoming free agent. He’s having a strong season so far thanks to big time power from the left side.
Lorenzo Cain has been a somewhat underrated part of this recent Royals run as he provides value at the plate, in the field and on the bases. He’s having a good year for Kansas City this season thanks to being above-average in all phases of the game once again. He figured to give the Red Sox fits all week.
Eric Hosmer is certainly overrated at this point, but he’s still pretty solid at the plate. He doesn’t possess the typical power you expect from a first baseman, but he will provide strong contact skills and has the ability to keep rallies going.
Salvador Perez is the heart and soul of the Royals and his defense and leadership gets most of the headlines. He’s also one of the better hitting backstops in the league despite rough plate discipline thanks to strong bat-to-ball skills.
Whit Merrifield has come out of nowhere to be a legitimate major-league hitter thanks to more strong contact skills and some surprising pop.
Jorge Bonifacio is a top prospect in the Royals system who came up this season and has provided some stability in the corner outfield. His plate discipline could use some work, but he’s shown the ability to do damage when he does make contact.
Alex Gordon was arguably the best player on the Royals when their run started, but he’s struggled mightily this season to the tune of a 59 wRC+.
Alcides Escobar is an outstanding defensive shortstop, but he’s become untenable at the plate with a 19 wRC+. No, that is not a typo. He really has been 81 percent worse than the league-average hitter.
Kelvin Herrera is the Royals closer, following in a strong recent line of Royals closers that includes Wade Davis and Greg Holland. Herrera has the talent to be seen as a peer of those two, but he’s had some command problems this year and as a result has given up seven home runs already. That’s more than he allowed all of last season.
Joakim Soria is the setup man and figures to be a future closer when (notice I didn’t say if) Herrera is dealt. The righty is still outstanding despite getting into his mid-30s thanks to outstanding strikeout stuff and an ability to induce ground balls.
Peter Moylan is the other setup guy in the Royals bullpen. He’s not a prototypical back-end arm, relying on weak contact rather than strikeouts to do his damage.
Mike Minor and Scott Alexander are the primary lefties in the Royals bullpen. The former was once one of the most promising young starters in the league before injuries derailed his career, but Minor has thrived in his new role in relief. Alexander, meanwhile, is one of the best ground ball pitchers in all of baseball. You can expect to see him whenever the Royals need a double play this week.
Danny Duffy was supposed to be one of the Royals best pitchers this season after a breakout 2016. While he’s been solid this year, he hasn’t been quite as good as he was a season ago. He’s been out since the end of May with an oblique injury, but he’s throwing again and could begin a rehab assignment soon.
Nathan Karns was a rare strong point on the Royals roster before the season with career-best strikeout and groundball rates. He’s been out since the end of May with an elbow issue and is likely on the same timeline as Duffy.
Paulo Orlando is a solid fourth outfielder who brings big-time baserunning value to a roster. He fractured his shin by fouling a ball off of himself in the middle of May and won’t be able to return until at least August.
Brian Flynn was a solid left-handed reliever for the Royals last season, but he’s been out all year after falling through the roof of his barn this offseason. Yes, you read that correctly.
It’s going to be an outstanding week in Kansas City weather-wise, with temperatures reaching the 80s and 90s during the day every day. Even better, the sun will be shining throughout the series. Good old fashioned baseball weather, as old baseball purists like to say.