The recent abundance of Kansas City Royals victories have come mainly against foes far out of contention. They’re proving, though, that they can play with the big boys, too.
Kansas City has taken the first two of its four-game set with the visiting Boston Red Sox, and it looks to win for the 16th time in 18 games Saturday night.
The Royals (60-53) haven’t hit the 60-win mark this early since they were 60-50 on Aug. 4, 2003, the last season they finished above .500.
Kansas City’s current surge began with three victories over Baltimore, but its last 10 wins entering this series had come against the Chicago White Sox, Minnesota and New York Mets.
Billy Butler and Justin Maxwell homered in a 5-1 victory in Thursday’s series opener before Maxwell homered again Friday as the Royals rallied for a 9-6 win over the AL East-leading Red Sox.
They scored six times in the sixth to overcome a three-run deficit, including a two-run single from Eric Hosmer. Maxwell, acquired from Houston on July 31, added an RBI single in the inning to complete the scoring.
“It’s just team chemistry, no matter who’s at the plate or who’s on the mound, we all have each other’s backs,” Maxwell said. “That’s the main thing.”
Runs may be tougher to come by Saturday, though, as Felix Doubront takes the hill for Boston (70-48).
Doubront (8-5, 3.56 ERA) has allowed three earned runs or fewer in 15 straight starts, marking the longest streak for a Red Sox left-hander since at least 1920. He’s 4-2 with a 2.02 ERA over his last nine outings after giving up five hits in seven innings of Sunday’s 4-0 win over Arizona.
“Being consistent in my five-day routines and just taking my plan for my next outing, that’s the most important one to me,” Doubront said. “We’re working on that every fifth day.”
Doubront’s string of games giving up three runs or fewer is the longest by any Boston pitcher since Tim Wakefield’s run of 17 in 1995. He has tried different tactics after going 11-10 with a 4.86 ERA in 29 starts last season.
“A lot of playing catch, a lot of front toss and a lot of that, that makes me be more consistent with pitches,” he said.
Doubront, though, had two rough outings versus Kansas City in 2012, giving up five runs – three earned – in 6 1-3 innings of an 11-5 win May 7 before allowing four runs in five frames of Boston’s 8-6 victory Aug. 26.
The Red Sox will look to bounce back after David Ortiz homered and Mike Napoli hit a three-run double in Friday’s defeat.
Jeremy Guthrie takes the mound for the Royals looking to win a career-best fifth straight start.
Guthrie (12-7, 3.96) hast posted a 1.29 ERA over his last three after pitching a four-hitter for his second shutout of the season in Monday’s 13-0 win over Minnesota.
In the six starts prior to his last three, the right-hander went 1-4 with a 5.80 ERA.
“Unfortunately, I’ve had big leads and have not pitched as well,” Guthrie said. “Even with a 6-0 lead, I felt (like) I was pitching with a two- or three-run lead.”
Guthrie, who is 1-0 with an 8.59 ERA in his last three starts versus the Red Sox, gave up four runs and walked four in six innings of Kansas City’s 5-4, 10-inning win over Boston on April 21.
The Royals have won the last four meetings with the Red Sox after dropping the first matchup this season.