The Kansas City Royals steadily are climbing back into the race in the American League Central and look to continue their surge when they open a six-game homestand Monday against the Boston Red Sox. The Royals have won seven of their last eight contests, closing within 3 ½ games of first-place Cleveland, and belted 18 homers on their 7-2 road trip that ended with Sunday’s 7-3 win at the Los Angeles Angels.
Salvador Perez belted a three-run homer Sunday to extend his hitting streak to 10 games (17-for-40) while Lorenzo Cain has hit safely in six straight (11-for-24) for Kansas City, which meets Boston for the first time this season after taking four of six in 2016. Jason Hammel tries to keep the Royals on the rise with a third straight win as he faces 28-year-old rookie Hector Velasquez of the Red Sox, who are 3-2 on their eight-game road trip. Boston took two of three at major league-best Houston over the weekend, including a 6-5 victory on Sunday in which Xander Bogaerts snapped out of a mini-slump by going 3-for-4 with four RBIs. The Red Sox, who have won seven of their last 10 games, moved into a virtual tie with the rival New York Yankees for first place in the AL East after Sunday’s victory.
TV: 8:15 p.m. ET, NESN (Boston), FSN Kansas City
PITCHING MATCHUP: Red Sox RH Hector Velazquez (1-1, 6.48 ERA) vs. Royals RH Jason Hammel (3-6, 5.05)
Velazquez makes his second major-league start after holding Philadelphia scoreless on one hit and one walk over 3 1/3 innings on Wednesday to record the victory in relief. The Mexican gave up six runs and nine hits - including three homers - over five frames against Oakland on May 18 in his first career start. Velazquez, who had his contract purchased from a Mexican League team in February, has gone 4-1 with a 1.29 ERA in nine turns with Triple-A Pawtucket this season.
Hammel is starting to put things together with three consecutive quality starts to open the month, recording a pair of wins and a 2.21 ERA in that stretch. The 34-year-old native of South Carolina has struck out 15 and walked just one in 20 1/3 innings during June after issuing a season high-tying four free passes in his last start of May against Detroit. Hanley Ramirez is 6-for-13 with a homer versus Hammel, who is 1-3 with a 4.61 ERA in 13 career appearances (six starts) versus the Red Sox.
1. Boston 2B Dustin Pedroia is tied with Wade Boggs (687) for 17th on the franchise’s all-time RBI list and three behind Nomar Garciaparra for 16th.
2. Kansas City 3B Mike Moustakas, who registered a three-run double on Sunday, is one shy of 100 homers for his career.
3. Red Sox RF Mookie Betts has gone 8-for-20 during his five-game hitting streak and CF Jackie Bradley Jr. has hit safely in nine of his last 10 (13-for-37).
PREDICTION: Royals 6, Red Sox 4