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July 18th 2014 - Posted at 3:00 PM ET

Take KC Royals as +116 underdogs on the Money Line against Boston Red Sox risking 2%
(Shields and Buchholz must start)

The Kansas City Royals and Boston Red Sox open up their 3-game series at Fenway Park tonight. Heading into the All-Star break, the Royals had been simply treading water and not gaining much ground in their division. They currently find themselves just two games above a  .500 record and 6.5 games behind the division leading Detroit Tigers. 

The Royals will need a solid second half if they hope to catch Detroit or even put themselves in a position for a Wild Card spot come September. The main issue with the team so far this season has been inconsistency at the plate. The Royals are a talented team and have shown flashes of dominance this season, but prior to the break, they had trouble consistently putting runs on the board. We feel that the All-Star break will have given the time to rest and reflect and they will show up with new goals and motivation tonight. That coupled with the fact that they will be facing a struggling Clay Buchholz should provide the Royals with that extra offensive spark.

While the offense has at times been lackluster, where the Royals have had success has been with their pitching. Kansas City has the 11th best ERA in the league with a combined 3.76. Tonight they send arguably their most consistent pitcher to the mound in James Shields. Shields is 9-5 this season with a 3.65 ERA and has 110 strikeouts in 130 innings of work. What has been most impressive about him is not his stats, but the fact that he is one of the few pitchers in the league that has not only pitched well on the road, but has in fact been dominant. Shields is 6-2 on the road this season in 12 starts and Kansas City has won 9 of those 12 games! He also has a 6-0 Team Start Record on the road when the money line is +125 to -125! 

Going back even further, the Royals are 21-7 in Shields' last 28 starts on the highway! He has also had great success on the road against teams who struggle to put up runs going 15-2 in road games against American League teams scoring 4.7 or less runs per game over the last 2 seasons.

Besides having a great starting pitcher on the mound tonight, the Royals also have one of the best closers in the league in Greg Holland. Holland has pitched brilliantly and has already recorded 25 saves this season, which is good for 2nd in the league! Holland also just recently pitched for the AL in this past week’s All-Star game. The combination of Shields and Holland on the mound can be a dangerous one for the Red Sox. If Shields and the Royals can get a lead, we expect Holland to close out the game in dominant fashion as he has done many times this season. 

The Boston Red Sox may have won four of their last five games heading into the break; however it has still been a dismal season for Red Sox nation. Boston is still nine games back of a .500 record and are currently in the bottom of the division, 9.5 games back of the Baltimore Orioles! Much like their counterparts, the Red Sox struggles this season have come behind the plate. Although their offense had begun to come around prior to the break, the Red Sox have been held to three runs or less runs in 18 of their last 28 games and have lost 11 of their last 13 games when scoring three or less runs! Mike Napoli is just 4 for 22 against Shields, having struck out 10 times. 

The Red Sox will send Clay Buchholz to the mound tonight. Last season, Buchholz was arguably their most consistent pitcher. This season however, it has been a struggle for him. He is 4-5 with an ERA of 5.42! Last season he thrived at Fenway Park, but things have changed drastically this season. Buchholz has only 1 win at home as he is 1-3 in 6 home starts. What is most concerning however is the fact that his ERA has been terrible at home. A 5.42 ERA is undoubtedly unimpressive for a starting pitcher, but not compared to his 6.39 ERA when under the lights of Fenway Park! The main thing in this matchup is that Buchholz has been very hittable. If he allows Kansas City batters to get on base, it could cost his team tonight. Royals Outfielder Alex Gordon is 4-for-8 lifetime against Buchholz with a double and a home run!

Coming back from the All-Star break is almost like the start of a new season. All momentum has been taken away and what has been done in the past is basically wiped clean. Fundamentally speaking, the Royals have more pieces in place; from their pitching to their hitting while the Red Sox are lacking in some key areas and have been struggling to find continuity in their lineup. Shields has been dominant on the road and we expect the Royals to back him with just enough offense to grab a close win. The Royals are 5-1 in their last 6 games when playing Boston and have value as underdogs.
 
Other notable facts to consider:

  • Royals are 8-0 in Shields' last 8 starts vs. American League East!
  • Royals are 11-5 as a road underdog of +100 to +125 this season.
  • Red Sox are 1-5 in Buchholz 6 home starts this season.



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