When the Kansas City Royals come into town to face the Boston Red Sox, it's not supposed to be a close matchup. This time around it is. With four straight losses, the Sox now sit at 59-66, the Royals 55-68. There is some seperation, yes, but not nearly enough.
Now they'll need to sweep their next two series just to get back to .500, and that's hardly a guarantee even against a team like the Royals.
The good news for the Sox is that they should at least be able to take on the challenge with some greater health. Carl Crawford is gone for good now, yes, but David Ortiz is on the way back, and with Felix Doubront making a Sunday start, there is some small reason to smile.
Boston Red Sox (59-66) vs. Kansas City Royals (55-68)
Friday, August 24, 7:10 p.m. EST
Jon Lester (7-10, 5.03 ERA) vs. Bruce Chen (9-10, 5.45 ERA)
There's not much that's not to like about Jon Lester's August. After striking out 12 in Cleveland, Lester put a bit of emphasis on a sudden run of success by holding the Yankees to one run in seven innings, earning the Sox their only win of the series. If Lester was able to take out the Bronx Bombers, one of the best teams in the league at hitting southpaws, the Royals (who are decidedly middling) should not prove much of a problem. The major caveat being that this game is at home, and the Sox have gotten some awful outings from Lester in Fenway this year.
Saturday, August 25, 7:10 p.m. EST
Josh Beckett (5-11, 5.23 ERA) vs. Jeremy Guthrie (5-12, 5.41 ERA)
You might just want to give this one a miss entirely. Josh Beckett is awful. He doesn't know how to get outs at all right now, and switching over to NESN at 7:10 would likely just be setting yourself up for a bad night. This might not be the case if Jeremy Guthrie were pitching like his usual self, but he's allowed not a single earned run in his last 22.2 innings of work. Maybe the Sox are just the team to knock him back down to his old levels, but is that a risk you're really willing to take?
Sunday, August 26, 1:35 p.m. EST
Felix Doubront (10-6, 4.70 ERA) vs. Will Smith (4-5, 5.40 ERA)
Felix Doubront is in a pretty good situation, actually. Like Lester, he has the advantage of being a left-hander taking on some bats that really struggle against LHP. Unlike Lester, if he has a bad night, it's kind of understandable. Doubront will be fresh off a fatigue-induced DL stint--one that's really been obviously needed for months now. If he has a good game, then excellent, he's found his stride again. If he doesn't, then he's just still tired. There's not much in the way of expectations here, simply put.
Will Smith, a young lefty like Doubront, is a bit of an odd situation. His season totals are pretty bad, but when looking at his game log, he's allowed between two and four runs in almost all of his starts this season. That's kind of the sort of player the Red Sox could have used this season, but oh well. For now, it looks like this game will be more about what Doubront can do than Smith.
Monday, August 27, 1:35 p.m. EST
TBD vs. Luke Hochevar (7-11, 4.95 ERA)
The Sox don't quite have their ducks in a row just yet. This could be an Aaron Cook start, or Daisuke could return, but either way there's not a lot to look forward to exactly. With Luke Hochevar going for the Royals, they probably feel about the same, even if the one-time top pick was absolutely fantastic against the Rays in his last outing. The Sox will just have to hope that was the fluke, and not, y'know, his 125-game career.