The Red Sox will conclude their three-game series with the Royals on Sunday afternoon. Joe Kelly gets the start against the left-handed Jason Vargas.
After winning his first game in a Red Sox uniform on Sept. 2 at Yankee Stadium, Kelly (3-4, 4.14 ERA) pitched well against the Orioles last Monday at Fenway Park. Despite taking the loss, Kelly struck out six and allowed three earned runs over 6 1/3 innings. Orioles pitcher Miguel Gonzalez was just better, silencing the Boston bats.
“I made some good pitches today when I had to,” Kelly said after the game. “I didn’t make terrible pitches. The other guy threw a hell of a ball game. He’s been pitching like that all year. When you face a guy like that, letting up one run would have beat us today.”
Since joining the Red Sox rotation at the non-waiver trade deadline, Kelly has just one start in which he did not get past the fourth inning, which was almost a month ago against the Astros. Sunday’s game could pose some problems for the right-hander, however.
Kelly has struggled pitching in both day games and on the road in 2014. On the road, his ERA is 4.53 — over one run higher than it is at home. In four starts during the day this season, opposing batters are hitting at a .286 clip, which has led to a 5.96 ERA.
It also will be key for Kelly to make it through the first two innings unscathed. He’s been charged with 21 runs combined between the first two frames of the game. The second inning has been particularly unkind to Kelly, as he has an ERA over eight in the inning. But by the third time hitters face the right-hander in a game, their batting average is just .176.
Kelly has not pitched against the Royals this season, but he has faced them three times throughout his career. He threw one inning in relief last year against them and made two starts against Kansas City in 2012. On June 22, 2012, Kelly threw six innings and allowed three runs at Kauffman Stadium, earning his first career major league win.
Nori Aoki, who played a majority of his career with the Brewers, has the most at-bats and best of any Royals player against Kelly, as his .538 average is tops on the team.
Vargas (11-8, 3.25) is putting together a fine season during his first year with the Royals. He his coming off a loss, however, getting roughed up against the Tigers for four runs in 5 1/3 innings last Tuesday. He gave up three runs in the first two innings, and was hurt by the home run ball, with Rajai Davis and J.D. Martinez both connecting for homers.
But other than a hiccup against Detroit, Vargas has been strong over the past month. The last time he did not pitch at least five innings was on Aug. 2 against the Athletics. Since that start, he’s pitched at least five innings and has struck out no fewer than three hitters in a game. By season’s end, he projected to have a 3.38 ERA, which would be the best number he’d have to finish a major league season.
The left-hander’s last appearance against the Red Sox was in September of 2012 back when he pitched for the Mariners. He went seven innings and gave up just one run in the win at Safeco Field.
Mike Napoli, who was not with the Red Sox the last time they faced Vargas, has feasted off the lefty. He has four home runs and two doubles in 32 at-bats against him.
Red Sox vs. Vargas (LHP)
Mike Napoli (38 career plate appearances): .375 average/.474 OBP/.813 SLG, 2 doubles, 4 home runs, 6 RBIs, 5 walks, 6 strikeouts
Yoenis Cespedes (26): .240/.269/.640, 1 double, 3 home runs, 5 RBIs, 1 walk, 7 strikeouts
Jemile Weeks (24): .238/.333/.286, 1 double 3 walks, 2 strikeouts
David Ortiz (13): .250/.308/.333, 1 double, 2 RBI, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts
Will Middlebrooks (6): .000/.000/.000, 4 strikeouts
Daniel Nava (6): .200/.333/.800, 1 home run, 2 RBIs, 1 walk
Allen Craig (4): .000/.250/.000, 1 walk
Catcher David Ross is 1-for-2 with a home run against Vargas.
Royals vs. Kelly (RHP)
Nori Aoki (17): .538/.647/.769, 2 RBIs, 4 walks, 3 doubles
Alex Gordon (6): .333/.333/.333
Eric Hosmer (6): .333/.333/.333, 1 RBI, 1 strikeout
Jarrod Dyson (5): .200/.200/.400, 1 double
Alcides Escobar (5): .500/.600/.500, 1 walk
Omar Infante (5): .250/.400/.250, 1 walk
Mike Moustakas (5): .750/.800/.1.500, 1 home run, 2 RBIs, 1 strikeout
Billy Butler (4): .250/.250/.250
Salvador Perez (3): .667/.667/1.667, 1 home run, 2 RBIs