Aug. 6 MLB Preview — Kansas City (40-74) at Boston Red Sox (60-55)

(Rafael Devers photo courtesy Brian Fluharty/USA TODAY Sports)

When and Where: Tuesday, Aug. 6, Fenway Park, Boston, Mass., 7:10 p.m. EDT.

Still trying to find a groove in his new surroundings, Andrew Cashner looks to shake out of his funk Tuesday night when the struggling Boston Red Sox continue their series against the Kansas City Royals.

Junis hopes change of scenery results in return to winning ways

Jakob Junis (6-10, 5.03 ERA) is looking to avoid losing a third consecutive start, with the hopes that pitching on the road will serve as a positive. The right-hander’s earned run average is 1.40 runs lower on the road, where he is 3-4 with a 4.24 ERA in 10 starts, than compared to pitching at Kauffman Stadium.

Junis’ struggles with the long ball continued in Wednesday’s 4-1 home loss to Toronto as he served up a pair of solo homers and yielded four runs overall in seven-plus innings. A lack of run support also cropped as the Royals backed him with two or fewer runs for the sixth time in seven starts, and Junis is 2-4 with a 4.74 ERA in that stretch.

“Yeah, it was very, very frustrating,” Junis told the Royals’ official website about his outing. “I was cruising, getting ahead and keeping the pitch count down. I just gave up a couple of homers late.”

The righty has been tagged for 24 home runs, tied for seventh-most in the American League, including 14 on the road in just 57 1-3 innings. Those 14 homers have accounted for 17 of the 29 runs he has allowed on the road.

The third-year pitcher did not give up a gopher ball in June facing the Red Sox at home, but they roughed him up plenty in racking up six runs and eight hits in 4 2-3 innings of an 8-0 romp. Junis did not get a decision in his other career start last season versus Boston, allowing two runs in six innings at Fenway in a 7-6, 13-inning Royals victory.

Andrew Benintendi has been a nuisance to Junis, going 4 for 6, while Rafael Devers has three doubles in six at-bats in their matchups.

Cashner hopes stepping out of division ends slump

When the Red Sox acquired Cashner (10-6, 4.44) from the Baltimore Orioles on July 13, it looked like they were getting the right-hander at an opportune time as he had won his previous three starts. Boston, though, has not seen much of that form from Cashner, who is 1-3 with a 6.94 ERA in four starts since the deal.

Cashner was reached for a season-worst seven runs along with seven hits in 5 2-3 innings of a 9-4 loss to Tampa Bay on Thursday. He also matched a season-high with five walks and has issued 11 in 23 1-3 innings with Boston — well above his rate of 2.62 per nine innings pitching for Baltimore.

The righty did not face the Royals this season before being dealt, and while he has pitched well against Kansas City in his career, it has yet to translate into victories. Cashner is 0-3 with a 3.29 ERA in five matchups, going 0-1 with a 5.56 ERA in two starts last year after yielding seven runs and 15 hits — three of them home runs — in 11 1-3 innings.

One positive for Cashner is he has been superb against AL Central teams this year, entering this matchup 2-0 with a 2.50 ERA in three starts.

Notable Trends

The Red Sox are:

  • 17-5 in their last 22 games vs. AL Central teams.
  • 8-0 in their last seven games vs. the Royals.
  • 89-38 in their last 127 games vs. starters with a plus-1.30 WHIP.

The Royals are:

  • 8-20 in Junis’ last 28 starts vs. above-.500 teams.
  • 6-18 in their last 24 during game 2 of a series.
  • 0-5 in their last five games vs. starters with a plus-1.30 WHIP.

*****5-Star Pick*****

Red Sox OVER 6 runs (-110)

Boston has been consistent in knocking around Royals pitching with seven or more runs in each of its four wins. The hedge is the Red Sox are back on track offensively after scoring more than five runs for the first time in seven games, but Monday’s win was also the fifth time in eight home games they plated at least six runs.

****4-Star Picks****

Red Sox -1.5 runs (-105)

There is no denying the Boston Red Sox are struggling, but it has more to do with a starting rotation that is failing to produce. In this matchup, though, Boston’s hitters can offset that problem by teeing off on Junis for the second time this year.

Kansas City pitching has been considerably erratic on the road since the All-Star break, giving up 10 or more runs in three of its nine games while recording shutouts twice. It has been, however, consistently bad versus Boston — Monday’s loss upped the run count to 30 allowed in four meetings.

Taking the Red Sox and the run line is still a better play than thinking the Royals will be able to knock Cashner out of the box and keep up with them offensively.

Red Sox -0.5 runs first 5 innings (-145)

Boston’s recent losing streak almost makes laying the half-run an undervauled pick given the Royals are 2-7-1 at the midway point in their last 10 games. The Red Sox did grab a five-inning lead for the first time in seven games (1-5-1), and while they are 1-2-1 in Cashner’s four starts, their earlier success against Junis is enough to warrant taking them here.

***3-Star Picks***

OVER 11 runs (Even)

The hope is you grabbed this number when it was at 10.5 because it has ticked higher to 11 runs at even money. While the Red Sox offense against Royals pitching is still a favorable matchup, there is less confidence in the pick at the new number.

The over is 3-1 in Cashner’s four starts with the Red Sox, and the number has been 10.5 or higher in all four games. The lone under came when the line was 12.5 runs against his former team. The over has been solidly trending with Boston around him, going 12-3-1 in the last 16 in the second game of a series and 16-6 in the last 22 contests versus AL Central teams.

The over is also 8-3-2 in the last 13 meetings between the teams at Fenway Park and 21-7-3 in the previous 31 overall. The over is also 16-5-1 in Kansas City’s last 22 games against starters with a plus-1.30 WHIP. The under hit in Junis’ start versus Boston in June, but that was only because Chris Sale had one of his few dominant outings in that 8-0 Red Sox win.

UNDER 6.5 runs first 5 innings (-125)

A pair of contrasting trends are at work to make this pick conflicting. Junis has helped deliver the five-inning under in his last five starts for the Royals, and the under has gone 5-2 in their last seven overall.

On the other side, the five-inning under hit in a Red Sox game for the first time since July 23, having gone 12-0-1 in the previous 13. The over is 3-1 in Cashner’s four starts with the Red Sox, edging out the last two with seven runs when the number was 6 and 6.5, respectively.

The over hit in the first matchup when Junis pitched, but that was again due to the Red Sox offense. Kansas City has been held to one or no runs in five of its last seven games, and the hedge is with Cashner stepping out of divisional play, he helps keep the number just below the hook.

Red Sox 3-way ML 1st inning (+205)

With both pitchers sporting first-inning earned run averages of 5.48 and higher, there is little value taking the first-inning 0.5 over/under at -160, and with the Royals 0-5-5 in their last 10 games after the opening frame, the 3-way money line is worth a flyer as opposed to the straight one with the Red Sox at -155.

Boston has scored first-inning runs in all three of Cashner’s starts at home and led on all three occasions. The Red Sox have also struck in the first in eight of their last 15 home games, and also got to Junis for two in the first in Kansas City in June.


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