Just going with 2 previews today, although one could argue the Yanks/Sox game is such a rivalry it is worth 2 games. One could also argue that the Royals/Orioles game is worth 0 games so I guess it evens out in the end.
Kansas City Royals at Baltimore Orioles
Kansas City moved its record to 2-4 in rubber games this year, with a 5-3 victory over the Chicago White Sox at Kaufmann Stadium. Royals OF Jose Guillen is starting to turn things around, after hitting .127 in his previous 18 games, by producing a run-scoring single in the pivotal fourth inning. The team now heads to Baltimore, as the Royals split the season series 4-4 versus the Orioles last year, including two victories at Camden Yards.
Royals SP Kyle Davies is set to make the start on Monday, bringing in a 2-2 record and 5.22 ERA. This will be his fourth career start against the Orioles, going 1-1 with a 79.4 ERA. In his only outing at Camden Yards on 7/3/08, the right-hander allowed seven runs on eight hits in just over four innings. He is a career 17-22 pitcher on the road with a 5.15 ERA in 55 career games (53 starts).
Baltimore continues its current homestand after struggling offensively in a 5-1 defeat to the Cleveland Indians on Sunday. It’s been a very up-and-down year for the Orioles, compiling a 10-10 record in their last 20 games. The bullpen’s late-inning woes continued, giving up two runs in the eighth inning, moving their season total to 23 runs given up in the eighth inning or later this season. Fans are hoping that a series against the AL Central will wake up the team, as they’ve notched an even 3-3 record against the division this season (6-15 vs. East, 3-7 vs. West).
Orioles SP Brad Bergesen is perceived to be back on track, tossing 7.2 innings of one-run ball against the Mariners last Wednesday. Since returning back from a stint at Triple-A Norfolk, he has produced a 2.33 ERA in his last three starts. In 15 career starts at Camden Yards, Bergesen is 9-2 with a 3.53 ERA, with nine of his 15 home starts being labeled a quality one. Baltimore has outscored its opponent 19-11 over his last three starts, with two of those coming at Camden.
It will be very hard to back the Royals as a road underdog in this contest, with the team dropping seven out of their last eight games in this situation (-539). Kansas City is also 58-121 in its last 179 games against the AL East, but picked up a small profit in the eight game series against the Orioles in 2009 (+235).
One angle that’s going for Baltimore is the fact they have not lost three straight home games since getting swept by Toronto and Tampa Bay from 4/9-4/14/10. Bergesen also seems to pitch well at home against lesser competition, with the Orioles going 7-0 in his last seven starts against a team with a losing record.
Boston Red Sox at New York Yankees
Boston flies into New York on a losing streak, after dropping the last two games of the current road trip against the Detroit Tigers, a team that has the best home record in the American League. The Red Sox continue to be matched up with top-flight teams on its current schedule, playing its 15th game against a team with a .600 or better win percentage. The team is now 3-11 in those contests after Sunday’s 5-1 loss. The bullpen has been worked heavily in recent days, which showed with closer Jonathan Papelbon getting seven outs on Saturday for his longest outing in over three years. From a series standpoint with the Yankees, Boston can produce a winning record (20-22) against New York since 2008 with a sweep.
Red Sox SP Daisuke Matsuzaka is currently 2-1 with a 6.35 ERA in three starts this season. He is set to make his season debut against the Bronx Bombers, last facing them at Yankee Stadium in September 2009. The Japanese import is 3-3 with a 5.49 ERA in seven career starts against the Yankees, but has won only one of his three starts in New York (4/27/07). Scoring has been a familiar theme in games with Matsuzaka involved, with teams combining for 45 runs in his three starts already this season.
New York will look to bounce back after failing to shut the door on the Minnesota Twins on Sunday, dropping the final game of a three-game set, 6-3, at Yankee Stadium. Still, the Yankees have won all five of their series at the Stadium this season. The team has certainly taken care of business against the division in the season’s first six weeks, posting an 11-4 mark. Offensively, the team has had little trouble again in facing right-handed starters, going 16-7 in 23 such games and 73-48 when adding in 2009’s win total. The season series against Boston has already included six games thus far, with the Yankees going 4-2 and outscoring the Red Sox by 14 runs total (43-29).
Yankees SP Phil Hughes definitely shook off the nerves of pitching in the sport’s biggest rivalry, picking up a 10-3 victory at Fenway Park on 5/7. The right-hander tossed seven effective innings in that game, allowing just two runs and scattering seven hits. Manager Joe Girardi has to be very pleased in placing Phil Hughes in the starting rotation after winning the job during spring training, especially with the young starter posting a 5-0 record and 1.38 ERA in his first five starts. The Yankees have outscored opponents 18-5 in his two starts at home, as he’s gone 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA.
Bettors supporting the Yankees on Monday night should take serious consideration in playing the run-line. New York has won all 12 games at home by two or more runs and all four of their victories against Boston this season have come by the same margin. In fact, the last one-run ball game between these two clubs came back on 6/11/09, a span of 16 games.
Support for the underdog certainly has its voice, when factoring in the Red Sox’ 13-6 in Matsuzaka’s last 19 starts against the division. That enthusiasm must be tempered with the team dropping three of his last four games against the division the last two years (-295).