By Ben Buchanan, Contributor
After going more than a month without a series loss, a slumping Red Sox team has now dropped two straight, courtesy of the Mariners and Rays. Now they'll look to right the ship against the team that arguably started their slump: the Kansas City Royals.
As July came to an end, the Sox were on top of the world, building towards a historically good month. They had just finished sweeping the Mariners out of Fenway Park and were ready to welcome in the dregs of the AL Central, expecting to do the same to them. Instead, they failed to win a series for the first time since they fell 2-1 to Philly, splitting the four-game series right down the middle. Their wins were not indicative of the offensive troubles that would plague the team for the next few weeks, but it's hard to ignore the 11-11 record that's followed.
If the team needs a spark, then there's a chance they're about to receive it from an unexpected source. While Kevin Youkilis played against the Rays, the back issues that held him out against the Mariners will now send him to the disabled list. Typically a bad sign for a struggling offense, but in return the Sox are giving their top minor league bat a shot at the Majors.
Catcher/DH Ryan Lavarnway has dominated Triple-A ever since being called up mid-way through the season, showing no sign of a post-promotion slump. The author of a system-leading 30 homers between both levels, Lavarnway brings a tremendous bat in all respects with him. While his defense was originally the sort that left observers predicting a life of designated hitting, Lavarnway has shown steady improvement, and now has convinced some that he'll stick behind the plate.
Whether the injection of an exciting young bat looking to prove himself is what this team needs remains to be seen. But after putting up three hits in three straight games, it can't get much worse. Especially against a terrible pitching staff like the Royals.
Boston Red Sox (74-48) vs. Kansas City Royals (51-73)
Thursday, August 18 - 8:10 p.m. EDT
Josh Beckett (9-5, 2.40 ERA) vs. Luke Hochevar (8-9, 4.89 ERA)
Friday, August 19 - 8:10 p.m. EDT
Andrew Miller (4-1, 5.40 ERA) vs. Jeff Francis (4-13, 4.76 ERA)
Saturday, August 20 - 7:10 p.m. EDT
Tim Wakefield (6-5, 4.90 ERA) vs. Felipe Paulino (1-5, 3.76 ERA)
Sunday, August 21 - 2:10 p.m. EDT
Jon Lester (12-6, 3.22 ERA) vs. TBA