Last night was a good example of why the Red Sox are the World Champions. They were efficient with their baserunners and only one Boston player failed to reach base. That’s a balanced offense and coupled with a pitcher who commands “electric stuff”, the Sox are a team playing for another championship.
But the Royals played hard the whole way through, as evidenced by Mitch Maier robbing a home run in the seventh in one of the oddest plays this season (seriously watch this video). For a peak at tonight’s matchup, let’s go Around the Horn…
This series with Boston puts into perspective how tough the Royals current stretch is. Beginning on July 18, the Boys in Blue started a 28-game run in which they would play seven separate teams in nine series (Chicago for three games, Detroit for three, Tampa Bay for four, Oakland for three, Chicago for three more, Boston for three, Minnesota for three, Chicago for three again and New York for three).
On July 17, those seven teams featured two division leaders, the Wild Card team and the top three contenders for the Wild Card with a combined record of 368-297 (.553 winning percentage). With 10 games left, KC has done well, going 10-8, going 4-2 vs. Chicago and helping push them into second in the Central (for a time), splitting with the first place Rays and sweeping the A’s in Oakland for the first time in 20 years. Their only major losses came at the hands of the surging Tigers who swept the Royals.
The last ten games of this stretch start tonight with knuckleballer Tim Wakefield throwing for the Wild Card-leading Red Sox.
Speaking of knuckleballers, manager Trey Hillman has a knuckleball in his repertoire. In fact, he’s been toying with it for 13 years. Who knew? Hillman will throw batting practice tonight for the team to prepare them for Wakefield’s unconventional pitching.
Hillman told the media in his pre-game press conference that when he was with the Yankees minor league system, he’d be told every September they were going fly him to New York to throw batting practice before Wakefield pitched, but it never happened. He also said that in Japan, he’d always toss BP when his team was scheduled to face the few knucklers over there. Currently in the Majors, only Wakefield and Seattle’s R.A. Dickey are considered true knuckleballers.
Tonight, Wakefield will face the Royals Luke Hochevar, a sinkerballer. The keys for Hochevar to succeed are control and keeping his sinker down in the strikezone. Hochevar has done both well lately, limiting his walks to 1.5 per nine innings over his last 10 starts, compared to a 5.5 mark during his first nine. He’s also getting the ground balls he needs, recording a 1.77 ground ball/fly ball ratio. That’s fourth-best among A.L. hurlers with as many starts as Hochevar. If the Sox are hitting in the ball on the ground tonight, look for a solid outing from Luke.
So it’s sinkerballer versus knuckleballer tonight at the K.
Lefty John Bale has rejoined the Royals after completing his rehab assignment, but remains on the Disabled List…The Royals first hit tonight will be the first in support of Luke Hochevar versus Boston. If you’ll recall, his last start versus the Sox was Jon Lester’s no-hitter on May 19…Yasuhiko Yabuta cleared waivers and was assigned to Triple-A Omaha. He pitched a scoreless inning today in rejoining the O-Royals…Jimmy Gobble started today for Triple-A Omaha to begin his rehab start. He went 2.2 innings, allowing four hits and two runs with a walk and three K’s, throwing 44 pitches…From Trey Hillman’s pre-game press conference: David DeJesus will get one more game off tonight, giving him two more days to recover from an ankle sprain before Friday’s game versus the Twins.
It’s College Night tonight, so it’s discounted tickets to all those with a valid student ID (high school or college).
Finally, don’t forget about the Larry Gura bobbleheads and Sluggerrr t-shirts this weekend.
Today’s Official Game Notes.