RED SOX (30-29) AT ROYALS (19-40)
8:15 p.m. ET; FSKC, NESN, MLB.TV
With all eyes in baseball on the draft on Monday, the Red Sox and Royals enjoyed an off day before starting a three-game series in Kansas City on Tuesday in their first matchup this season.
Boston will send left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez (5-3, 5.04 ERA) to the mound, while the Royals will go with right-hander Glenn Sparkman (1-1, 4.21).
After a very slow start, the Red Sox went 18-8 from April 29-May 27 to get back in the postseason conversation, but they have sputtered over the past two weeks. They lost the first two games of a three-game weekend series to the New York Yankees before David Price led them to an 8-5 win Sunday at Yankee Stadium, snapping a four-game losing streak.
Boston manager Alex Cora believes his team’s offense, which ranked sixth in the majors in batting average and seventh in on-base-plus-slugging percentage, is more to blame than the club’s pitching staff, which has the 17th-ranked ERA.
“Obviously we’re not happy where we’re at,” Cora said. “I thought we were going to be more consistent, but we’ve got plenty of time to get this going. Offensively, it has been up and down.
“Offensively, although people don’t see it that way, that’s the part that we need to get better. We’ve got to put at-bats together and be that offense that we know what we can do. Coming into the season, there were two strong points everybody talked about — the rotation and the offense. The rotation struggled early, and I think the offense hasn’t been consistent as a group the whole season.”
After two rocky starts to open the season, Rodriguez is 5-1 with a 3.93 ERA in his past nine outings. In his career against Kansas City, Rodriguez is 1-1 with a 5.96 ERA in five starts.
Sparkman has an unsightly career 33.75 ERA against the Red Sox, but it’s a very small sample size: 10 runs in 2 2/3 innings over three games. Most of the damage came in 2017, when he allowed seven earned runs in one-third of an inning while a member of the Toronto Blue Jays.
He struggled in his latest appearance, on Saturday, giving up four runs on three hits in an inning-plus against the Chicago White Sox before being ejected for hitting Tim Anderson in the bill of the helmet with a pitch.
The Royals have had their own offensive struggles, with an inordinate amount of production coming from the top five spots in the order: Nicky Lopez, Whit Merrifield, Adalberto Mondesi, Alex Gordon and Hunter Dozier. When one of those players goes out, as Dozier did Thursday with right chest tightness in the first game of the four-game series in Texas, the Royals have had trouble.
Dozier missed the last three games against the Rangers, and Kansas City dropped all three contests. He landed on the injured list Monday.
Now the Royals return home from a 1-6 road trip that saw them strike out 47 times in the four games at Texas.
“When you miss mistakes, these guys are good up here, so it’s going to be tough to hit their pitches,” Merrifield said. “It seems like all series, we didn’t do a good job of hitting balls that split the plate, and when that happens, you’re forced to try to battle against good strike-to-ball sliders or fastballs on the corners, and that results in a bunch of strikeouts.”
–Field Level Media