Red Sox face Royals, look to improve starting pitching

MLB Baseball

During a five-game winning streak full of highs, one low remains for the Boston Red Sox: inconsistent starting pitching.

Left-hander Martin Perez will look to right the ship as the Red Sox host the Kansas City Royals on Wednesday night in the third contest of a four-game series. Boston has taken the first two meetings via comebacks.

Perez (5-4, 4.09 ERA) will take the mound looking to build off a 3 2/3-inning performance in his most recent outing, against the New York Yankees on Friday. Fellow southpaw Mike Minor (6-5, 5.12) will get the nod for the Royals, who have lost seven straight games and 14 of the past 17.

Despite a 7-6 victory Tuesday, Boston manager Alex Cora lamented having to lean heavily on his bullpen. Starter Nick Pivetta failed to pitch five innings; he was bailed out by Yacksel Rios, Darwinzon Hernandez, Adam Ottavino and Matt Barnes (18th save), each making scoreless appearances.

“We needed (Pivetta) to go deep into the game. It didn’t happen,” Cora said. “We had to do what we had to do.”

Of particular concern is overuse of Barnes and Ottavino, each of whom have made five appearances since June 22. On the plus side, since that date, Boston relievers have combined for a 1.16 ERA over 31 innings pitched.

While the bullpen has continued to come up big, Boston’s offense also has done its part. J.D. Martinez reached base four times and had four RBIs in Tuesday’s win.

The come-from-behind win was Boston’s MLB-leading 27th.

The Royals, meanwhile, were left scratching their heads after still coming up empty despite 13 hits. The offense went 4-for-13 with runners in scoring position, including stranding two with two outs in the eighth.

“You got faith when the offense starts scoring like that they’re going to be able to keep adding,” manager Mike Matheny said. “We just couldn’t catch up once we gave up that last lead.”

Kansas City hitters have homered three times in each of the first two games of the series. Michael A. Taylor (3-for-3, three RBIs) and Ryan O’Hearn (3-for-5) led the way with two-run shots Tuesday.

Minor pitched well against the Red Sox on June 20 — two runs allowed over 6 2/3 innings — before giving up nine runs on 11 hits and two walks over five innings Friday against the Texas Rangers in his last time out. The left-hander has followed quality starts with subpar outings over his past six turns.

Minor is 3-3 with a 3.63 ERA in 11 games (seven starts) vs. Boston.

Perez has been one of the Red Sox’s biggest problems in the rotation recently, as he’s pitched at least five innings just once in his past four outings. That was when he held Kansas City to one run on June 19.

Perez is 2-1 with a 4.93 ERA in nine starts lifetime against the Royals.

The series between the clubs will conclude with a day game Thursday afternoon.

-Field Level Media

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