By Matt Straub
As a fan of a team, it’s tough to watch it be reduced to the team trying to ruin the playoff dreams of others, especially when they’re playing a team like the Royals, who haven’t been this big a playoff contender in 30 years. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll be rooting for the Sox this week, but I’m hoping Detroit falters as much as KC this week so the Royals can keep their lead in the division.
The Red Sox are a mess, and this series’ rotation shows the best and worst of their youth movement. Clay Buchholz, the leader of the new staff, could either be brilliant or a disaster, not really a good quality for an ace to have. Allen Webster stinks, but Rubby De La Rosa could be a star, though he seems to be tiring lately. And Joe Kelly, the piece Boston got for John Lackey, is decent, which means he wasn’t enough in return for Lackey (Allen Craig, the other piece in that trade, stinks).
Boston’s future looks much better on offense, and I’ll enjoy watching people like Mookie Betts continue to develop. Against a good team, however, the focus on this series needs to be the pitching as Boston tries to figure out what it has.
Boston (63-83, eliminated from playoffs)
at Kansas City (80-64, 1 game up in AL Central)
Tonight, 8:10 p.m.
Clay Buchholz (7-8, 5.29) vs. Liam Hendriks (1-1, 4.81)
Friday, 8:10 p.m.
Allen Webster (3-3. 6.47) vs. Yordano Ventura (12-9, 3.25)
Saturday, 7:10 p.m.
Rubby De La Rosa (4-6, 4.01) vs. Jermy Guthrie (10-11, 4.54)
Sunday, 2:10 p.m.:
Joe Kelly (3-3, 4.14) vs. Jason Vargas (11-8, 3.25)
Playoff Picture: The Royals enter this one two up on the Tigers in the loss column in the thrilling race for the AL Central crown. Not only does the winner get to raise a nice flag, but it avoids the wild-card game and the risk of one loss ending their season. The Red Sox, well, they won the World Series last year.
Momentum: James Shields gave the Royals a huge win in the series finale against the Tigers Wednesday, which made sure Kansas City escaped the set with the division lead and without the pain of being swept. Before that they took two of three from the Yankees in a series which was bigger then than it seems now. The Red Sox last had momentum just after the all-star break.
Who’s Hot: Xander Bogaerts continues to swing a hot bat and restore the Nation’s faith in its young shortstop. Speaking of the youth movement, Mookie Betts is on fire, and Boston seems intent on making his move to the outfield permanent, so giving him time out there is essential in the final couple of weeks. Mike Napoli showed some signs of life last week, too late for my fantasy team but not too late to get himself some momentum for next year. For the Royals, Eric Hosmer is on a hot streak which is devoid of power but still important and Josh Willingham is a new man since coming over from the Twins, whose fan base desperately wanted him gone.
Who’s Not: Yeonis Cespedes has finally cooled off, as has David Ortiz, though Big Papi has still been pretty good. Dustin Pedroia has finally been shut down for the year and is getting the hand surgery he probably needed in Paril and should have had a couple of months ago. The Royals have gotten very little offense from their infield besides Hosmer in the last week, which takes a lot of their speed/small ball game out of play.
Looking Ahead: An off day Monday comes before an interesting series in Pittsburgh and another chance to ruin someone’s season.