For a team whose last-place finishes (six) outnumbered playoff appearances (zero) since the inception of the American League Central, this was nothing new.
But a funny thing happened. Kansas City general manager Dayton Moore competently guided them back toward competitiveness. Since May 12, the Royals are 28-25, with a respectable pitching staff and no shortage of promising positional players.
The Royals will send rookie Brian Bannister to the mound, one of the fruits of Moore's rebuilding project. Acquired from the Mets during the offseason for Ambiorix Burgos, Bannister was named AL Rookie of the Month with a 5-1 June. Thanks to the All-Star break, he'll be pitching on 11 days of rest.
BOS: LHP Kason Gabbard (2-0, 4.87 ERA)
Gabbard might be turning a corner just as injured starter Curt Schilling nears his return from injury. Too many starters is a good problem to have for the Red Sox, who might consider retaining Gabbard in the No. 5 spot after Schilling's return, based on his performance. A start against the much-improved Royals will be a stern test. Gabbard has never faced Kansas City.
KC: RHP Brian Bannister (5-5, 3.71 ERA)
In his last start, Bannister allowed four first-inning runs to Seattle, then settled down and shut out the Mariners for six innings. The 26-year-old righty is one of three National League East products brought into the Kansas City starting rotation by Moore, a former Braves assistant.
Player to watch
Right fielder J.D. Drew, the only player on the Red Sox roster who has faced Bannister, sat out a second straight game on Sunday with a sore hamstring. If Drew sits out a third game, the situation might be more serious than originally thought.
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Tuesday: Red Sox (Tim Wakefield, 10-8, 4.47) vs. Royals (John Thomson, 1-1, 3.38), 7:05 p.m. ET
Wednesday: Red Sox (Julian Tavarez, 5-7, 5.15) vs. Royals (Odalis Perez, 4-8, 5.68), 7:05 p.m. ET
Thursday: Red Sox (Daisuke Matsuzaka, 11-6, 3.94) vs. White Sox (TBD), 7:05 p.m. ET