Alcides Escobar and the Royals have had plenty to celebrate lately, winning four straight and eight of their last 10. (Ed Zurga/Getty Images)

Red Sox-Royals series preview

June 19, 2015 - 8:33 am
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Following a four-game, home-and-home series with the Braves, the Red Sox stay on the road and travel to the midwest to take on the Royals. The Sox managed a 2-2 split with Atlanta but have gone 2-8 over their past 10 games.

The Red Sox sit in the cellar of the AL East and seem to keep finding new lows to reach. Owners of a 29-39 record, the Sox are just a half-game better than the A'€™s, who have the worst record in the AL. Boston is nine games out of first place in the division and has the second-worst run differential in the league.

General manager Ben Cherington on Thursday accepted blame for the team'€™s struggles.

"From my perspective, looking at the bigger picture and why we are where we are, when you are where we are, there'€™s a lot of reasons for it," Cherington told reporters. "There'€™s no single player that'€™s responsible for that. No single player can be responsible for a lot of reasons. The only person who perhaps is responsible, for a longer list of reasons, is me."

The Sox roll into Kauffman Stadium to face one of the hottest teams in baseball. The Royals have won four straight and eight of their last 10 games. They lead the AL Central by 3 1/2 games over the Twins and, at 38-25, have the best record in the American League.

The American League All-Star starters have the second-best run differential in the AL at plus-62. This stat has been boosted by the Royals'€™ AL-leading .273 team batting average.

Meanwhile, the Red Sox and Royals sit on opposite extremes of the American League ERA ranks. The Sox have a team ERA of 4.47, good for 15th and dead last in the AL. The Royals are tops in the league in the same stat with a 3.34 team ERA. They also lead the league with a .235 opponents' batting average.

Typically, offenses try to work long at-bats in order to wear down the opposing starter and get to the bullpen. Against the Royals, however, that may not be a good idea. Kansas City is a middling ninth in the AL in starters' ERA at 4.18 (Boston, predictably, is last at 4.82). KC relievers boast a ridiculous 1.94 ERA collectively, more than half a run better than the second-ranking AL squad (Houston at 2.61).

Along with the success the team has had of late, Royals manager Ned Yost became the winningest manager in franchise history with Thursday's victory over the Brewers. He was quick to credit his whole team with the accomplishment.

"I think it's an organizational-wide achievement, and I'm very proud to be a part of that," Yost said after the game.

Given the team's run to the World Series last October and its success to date in 2015, there is a lot for Yost and the Royals to be proud of.

"They do a lot of things well. I think we caught them when they were swinging the bats really well, which is unfortunate," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said Thursday after facing the Royals. "Their starters, they've kind of got a quick trigger. Ned gets five or six innings out of them and then he's got that bullpen to go to. They've got a lot of weapons across the roster."

In the weekend series, the Sox will miss one of the Royals' best starters. Yordano Ventura will miss his scheduled start Friday after being placed on the disabled list with inflammation of his ulnar nerve.

Here are the pitching matchups for the series:

Friday: Eduardo Rodriguez (2-1, 3.55 ERA) vs. Yohan Pino (0-1, 0.64 ERA) Saturday: Rick Porcello (4-7, 5.29 ERA) vs. Edinson Volquez (6-4, 3.10 ERA) Sunday: Wade Miley (6-6, 4.88 ERA) vs. Chris Young (6-2, 1.98 ERA)

WHO'S HOT: RED SOX

-- Mookie Betts struggled for a good portion of the season's first two months but has performed much better at the dish of late. He has hit .300 in June and, in the past five games, has gone 10-for-18 for a .556 average. That includes a home run, a triple, two doubles and four RBIs. His average on the year has come up to .257.

-- Despite being benched for Thursday's game for liking pictures on Instagram during Wednesday's contest, Pablo Sandoval has been good at the plate in the last week. He has hit .458 in his past six games, including six extra-base hits: one homer, one triple and four doubles.

-- Brock Holt continues to be a valuable Swiss army knife, succeeding at whichever position he appears on the lineup card. He hit for the cycle on Tuesday and has hit .393 combined over the past week.

WHO'S HOT: ROYALS

-- Lorenzo Cain is on a tear, hitting .400 over the past five games. He has two homers, two doubles, a triple and five RBIs over that span.

-- Mike Moustakas has hit well all season long, earning a .323 average that ranks third in the majors. He has hit .389 in the past week with an OPS of 1.032.

-- Wade Davis has been one of the most dominant relief pitchers in all of baseball. The right-hander has served both as a closer and set-up man, earning eight saves and seven holds. He has posted a ridiculous 0.31 ERA and 0.79 WHIP across 29 outings and innings pitched.

WHO'S NOT: RED SOX

-- As has been a pattern this year, Mike Napoli has not hit well recently. The first baseman has hit .188 in the past five games, striking out five times along the way.

-- Hanley Ramirez is hitting a meager .190 in his past five contests, amassing an OPS of just .418.

-- After an impressive start to the season, Xander Bogaerts has fallen into a mild slump over the past week. The shortstop has hit only .233 in the past seven games. This has dropped his season average slightly, but Bogaerts still is hitting a very solid .287.

WHO'S NOT: ROYALS

-- Eric Hosmer has had a very good season, but he hasn't been hot lately. In his past five games, he's hitting just .211 with three strikeouts and no extra-base hits.

-- Second baseman Omar Infante has hit only .228 this season and has yet to leave the yard. His OPS is an unimpressive .547.

-- Alex Rios has gone 4-for-19 in the past five games for a .211 average, striking out four times and accruing a .463 OPS. He is hitting just .220 in 22 games this season.

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