|Smart Era Gets Off to a Good Start with Win over T’wolves||2015 Red Sox Pitching Outlook (So Far…)||Connelly’s Top Ten: Jets Will Meet De-Feet, Rondo Brings Bricks to Dallas and Naked Gun||Celtics Send Rondo to Mavs in Exchange for Pupu Platter|
Coco Crisp will miss the Royals first trip to Boston since his offseason trade to the Royals, which netted the Red Sox reliever Ramon Ramirez and resolved the center field muddle, giving Jacoby Ellsbury the full-time gig. Crips’s season ended prematurely with surgery on his right rotator cuff and now appears to be having similar surgery on his left shoulder. Without Crisp, the Royals muster the lowest scoring offense in the majors and sport the worst run differential in the American League, but thanks to the Indians’ problems, are only fourth in the Central.
The Red Sox have sputtered a little in this homestand as they close out the first half with three of the worst offensive teams in the league, but maintain the division lead.
The pitching match-ups feature Brad Penny against Luke Hochevar (4-3, 5.08 ERA, 1.29 WHIP), the highly touted prospect who seems to be settling into a mediocre career pattern after his first couple years in the majors. Jon Lester faces Brian Bannister (6-6, 3.87, 1.29), whose ERA has benefited from a number of errors behind him. John Smoltz makes his fourth start for the Sox and is still in search for his first win as he takes on Gil Meche (4-8, 4.14, 1.47) and Josh Beckett starts the half’s final game against Bruce Chen (0-3, 6.88, 1.29), who is on his tenth team in twelve big league seasons, including the Red Sox in 2003.
The Red Sox notably miss ace and first half Cy Young leader Zack Greinke. Joakim Soria, the closer, is back to form after missing time earlier this season due to injury. Hs is 13/15 in save opportunities and has a 1.66 ERA and 1.02 WHIP with 29 K’s and a mere seven walks in 21.2 innings (12.05 K/9, 4.14 K/BB). The Royal bullpen is only 3/13 in save opportunities not handed to Soria.
The most interesting thing to note about their offense is the speed. They lead the majors in triples with 31, nearly 50% higher than the next best number (22), which is a good barometer for raw speed, so you would think that would translate into stolen bases. But, they are near the bottom of that category in the majors with only 41, and it is for a lack of trying: they are tied for second in percentage at 81% due to their second best 11 failed attempts, with Crisp’s (13/15 SB) injury certainly factoring in. With the Red Sox being near the bottom of the league in catching thieves (17%), K.C. manager Trey Hillman will probably greenlight his baserunners a little more freely.
Without Crisp, Willie Bloomquist is the main baserunning threat at 15/17 to go along with his .278 average and six triples. Miguel Olivo is the team leader with 13 bombs on a .249 average, 34 RBI, and 25 runs. Mike Jacobs has 11 home runs while hitting .223 with 28 RBI and 26 R. Alberto Callaspo has been a bright spot in his first test as a full time player, having already played in more games than any of his previous three seasons. He is batting .301 with 21 doubles, six dingers, 33 batted in, and 40 runs. Mark Teahan (.284, 9, 29, 39) and Billy Butler (.293, 8, 35, 36) have been key contributors to the offense as well.
The Royals have struggled more since Crisp has been gone, as his injury really hampered the speed dimension of their game and weakened their outfield defense. The Sox fortunately dodge Greinke and should be able to finish the half strong. Smoltz will again be a key to see if he can post a second solid start and perhaps get his first win though the veteran Meche can pitch very well when he is on. The Sox should win no less than three games.