A tough series in New York topped off a tough couple of weeks for the Red Sox. Thanks to a win on Sunday night they are one game above .500 and kept themselves from falling another two games back. Failing to win the series was not great, but the fightback must start now.
The Red Sox starting pitching is largely to blame for the losses in New York over the weekend. Chris Sale and Rick Porcello allowed four and five earned runs respectively, in their two starts. Of course, they are not the only ones to blame. The Red Sox offense scored a combined four runs in those two games. That is just simply not good enough to win a series on the road.
The Royals Game 1 starter will be making just his third start of the season, and just the sixth of his career. Part of his role this season has been as an opener, but in this start, he will be serving more like a conventional starter. However, do not expect to see him go deeper than four or five innings.
As for the other two starters in this series, they have had differing seasons. Jakob Junis has a 5.35 ERA on the season and has been consistently inconsistent. In his last two starts, he has allowed just four earned runs, in the three before that he allowed 13. As for Danny Duffy, he has a 4.05 ERA this season. In his last four home starts he has allowed just nine earned runs to score.
The Royals offense is overall pretty middle of the road, and at home, they have been pretty hit or miss. However, in their last home series against the Yankees, they scored 16 runs in three games. Before that against the Rangers, they scored 16 in the first game alone, but just two in the following two games combined. Overall at home, they rank 23rd in ISO and 18th in SLG.
The Red Sox road offense has been pretty grim itself this season. They rank 15th in ISO, 14th in SLG, 12th in wOBA but 11th in wRC+. In their most recent road trip to New York, it took until the third game for the bats to light up. The Red Sox hit just two home runs in the first two games, and then a further two in the final game. However, they did manage to put eight runs on the Yankees in prime time on Sunday night.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Pitching: The starting pitching remains an issue. Yes, they did not get much run support in the first two games. However, it is no major shock they won the only game where the starter gave up less than three earned runs. The bullpen has had its issues at times, but the starting pitching has been to blame for a lot of the losses this year. The Red Sox need that pitching to improve if they are to stay in touch for the division. They can start that in this series, by improving on that 14th ranked 4.50 staff ERA on the road.
Hitting: I touched on the road struggles for this offense above. At home, they rank top-10 in many of the major stats, at least from a power point of view. The Red Sox remain sub-.500 (16-17) on the road, and with a 4.50 ERA from their pitchers away from home, their offense needs to be above average. This is now especially important, as the Red Sox are looking less and less likely to have home-field advantage at any point in the playoffs.
Losing two out of three on the road to anyone is not ideal. Losing two out of three on the road to your fiercest rival, when they are already 9.5 games ahead of you before the series, is a borderline disaster. However, that has happened and now the Red Sox must respond in a big way in the coming week.
After a tough two weeks, things get a little easier for the Red Sox. Just four of their next 14 games are against teams with a plus-.500 record. Now is the time to cash in for the Red Sox, and that starts in the next three days with the Royals. The Red Sox need to win at least three of these four upcoming series, including this one in Kansas City.