The Boston Red Sox look to continue their fight for the top of the AL East on Tuesday night, as they prepare for battle with the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium. Boston is really giving the first place Yankees a run for their money lately, as they’re just 0.5 games back behind New York and pushing hard. The Red Sox remain strong, going 6-4 over their last 10 games, even though they dropped a tough 4-2 game in KC last night.
Boston looks like a real threat to steal game two of this series, as ace Chris Sale takes the mound in search for his 9th victory of the year. Sale is backed by a dangerous Boston offense that has fueled a respectable 18-20 record on the road.
Kansas City is working their way back to solid ground after a slow start to 2017. The Royals still don’t have a ton of raw power or reliable pitching, but they’re red hot right now (8-2 over their last 10 games) and are one win away from .500. Kansas City will need a lot of ammunition to thwart off a gem from Sale, while the Royals will also be leaning hard on young pitcher, Matt Strahm.
The Royals understandably enter as sharp underdogs. Should we target them in a glorious home upset win, or is the Total our angle here? Let’s dive into this matchup to find out:
Boston Red Sox (-210) @ Kansas City Royals (+180) Total: 8.5
Chris Sale (8-3, 2.82 ERA) vs. Matt Strahm (1-0, 3.67 ERA)
I don’t see much reason to waste time here. Chris Sale has a massive K rate, he regularly gets wins and the Royals aren’t normally an offense to fear. If you want a really safe bet that can cut corners, you can go hard at Boston. Probably. I just don’t see the value there, nor do I love the value with the Royals. Don’t get me wrong, +180 for any team that has a realistic shot at winning is a solid play, but this is KC vs. Chris Sale of all pitchers. I want a little more value than this if I’m taking on that bet.
That has me looking more at the Total, which feels pretty playable at first glance. We could side with Boston having an explosive offense that could take the Over all by themselves, but there might even be some value with the Royals. Sale has been a strikeout beast all year (10 Ks in his last start), but he does give up runs due to some hard contact. Kansas City is not a power offense and this is not a great park for hitters, but if Boston lives up to their end of the bargain, I’m not sure we need much out of the Royals.
Let’s consider that if we’re using this Total, six of Sale’s starts this year would easily crush it. Sale only gave up one run to the Phillies in his last start, but he’s allowed 3+ six times on the year and at least 2 runs in every start, save for his last one. Sales sees a positive park shift here, but he does boast a worse ERA (3.21) on the road and gives up more hits (0.188 BA at home vs. 0.222 BA on the road). That data doesn’t guarantee the Royals will randomly tee off, and when we note their numbers against southpaws (20th in HR, 15th in BA), the allure is even worse.
Still, the Royals have been better against left-handed pitching than we’d initially probably think and they have proven they don’t exactly need a ton of power to create chaos. Sale also doesn’t have an overly impressive history against some of these Royals, with dangerous bats like Eric Hosmer, Salvador Perez, Lorenzo Cain and Mike Moustakas all sporting healthy batting averages against him in fairly extensive action.
I still don’t think the Royals come out and wreck Sale, but for all of their power limitations, they are not a team that misses the ball a ton. In fact, KC ranks 7th for the least amount of strikeouts against left-handed pitching. If Sale isn’t making them miss at his usual rate and he’s on the road against bats that know him and have had success against him, then why are we so confident he’ll dominate them?
Again, I’m not sold on pushing all-in for the Royals for the upset, but it’s something to consider. Instead, that logic combines with the Sox, who get an inexperienced arm in Matt Strahm. Boston doesn’t pack the same long ball pop we’re used to seeing out of them, but they do still serve up solid power and Hanley Ramirez specifically gets a killer matchup against a young lefty. Boston as a whole is actually even better against southpaws, boasting the 2nd lowest number of Ks versus lefties. The Red Sox don’t offer much pop against lefties, but they rank 6th in batting average against southpaws.
In this park, the focus will be more on contact and pushing base runners. I think KC has a good chance to produce 3-4 runs in this game and if you want to go hard after the upset, it’s not that crazy of an idea. I naturally don’t trust Strahm yet, so given Boston’s success with contact and avoidance of Ks versus lefties, they seem to also be in a great spot. All things considered, this Total is low and the upside lies with the Over.