Red Sox vs Royals: 3 Up, 3 Down for April 20 & 21
The Boston Red Sox fought hard despite heavy hearts this past weekend due to the emotional aftershocks of last week's Boston Marathon bombings.
The Kansas City Royals snapped the Red Sox's seven-game winning streak by sweeping their day-night doubleheader on Sunday.
The starting pitching continues to be a bright spot early on, but there are several question marks offensively even with the return of David Ortiz.
Here is my Three Up, Three down for the weekend series against the Royals.
Three Up: Starting Pitching Delivers
Even though the Royals are a week offensive team, Red Sox starting pitchers did their jobs in all three games,
Clay Buchholz moved to 4-0 after allowing just two earned runs in eight strong innings. Buchholz looks like he has taken his game to another level early on in 2013. In his first four starts, he has given up three earned runs and has a 0.90 ERA, tied with Ross Detwiler of the Washington Nationals for the lowest ERA among starting pitchers in the majors.
Ryan Dempster continues to be dependable, which is all you need from your fourth starter. Dempster may be 0-2, but in three of his starts, the Red Sox's offense scored only two runs.
The debut of Allen Webster was everything I expected. Webster pitched well, and more importantly, he stayed focused and executed his pitches when he got in trouble.
Depending on how things go with John Lackey, Webster has shown that he could step up in 2013.
Three Up: Andrew Bailey Bounces Back
After allowing a walk and two hits, one of which was a home run, Red Sox reliever Andrew Bailey gained his composure and recorded his third save of the season on Saturday.
I was even more encouraged that the day after he struggled, Bailey came out and was lights out, striking out two batters and needing just 10 pitches to get through a scoreless ninth inning.
Bailey is healthy and showing fans why the Red Sox pursued him in a trade from Oakland in 2011.
Three Up: Mike Napoli Is Locked in
After a mediocre start, Mike Napoli is looking more like the slugger the Red Sox pursued in free agency.
Through the first eight games of the season, Napoli was hitting .176 with a .200 OBP, two home runs and two doubles to his credit.
In the last 10 games, Napoli is hitting .341 with a .386 OBP with a home run, six doubles and a triple.
Napoli would have more home runs if he was hitting in any other stadium, but Fenway Park's deep center field robbed him of at least two or three homers.
Batting average aside, Napoli has started to slug (.610 in the last 10 games) the way the Red Sox expected of him.
Three Down: Will Middlebrooks’ Slump Continues
Red Sox sophomore third baseman Will Middlebrooks has struggled since he erupted for three home runs in a single game in Toronto.
Since his flexed his muscled against the Blue Jays, Middlebrooks is 4-for-43 with one walk and 16 strikeouts.
Middlebrooks has seen his batting average drop from .370 to .208 in just 11 games, but it is still early.
With David Ortiz back in the lineup, there is less pressure for the 24-year-old so expect things to turn around for him.
Three Down: Salty and Drew Providing Little Offense
After having a good season last year, Jarrod Saltalamacchia has been awful at the plate in 2013.
In addition, shortstop Stephen Drew has struggled in his first nine games with the Red Sox.
Drew and Saltalamacchia are hitting a combined .167 this season with 31 strikeouts in 78 at bats.
What makes matters worse is that their backups, David Ross and Pedro Ciriaco, are also struggling at the plate so no matter who is starting, the Red Sox are getting virtually no offense from two of their hitters every game.
Three Down: Andrew Miller Has Been Shaky
Command has always been an issue with Andrew Miller, but after watching him walk in the go-ahead run with the bases loaded on Sunday night, the tall lefty looks like he needs to really focus on his mechanics.
However, I don’t see his command as the only issue right now. Miller, who has nasty stuff, seems to be nibbling at the strike zone rather than trusting his stuff.
With Craig Breslow and Franklin Morales ready to return in the next week or so, Miller is fighting to keep his job.