Two very different southpaws matchup on Thursday evening in Kauffman Stadium for game one of an intriguing series between the Boston Red Sox and Kansas City Royals. The Red Sox’s hopeful Ace, Jon Lester, visits Bruce Chen in a battle of power vs. finesse. Lester gets the nod in Vegas as a small, yet established favorite.
Names can easily deceive in this one. Jon Lester hasn’t quite been, well, Jon Lester this season and Bruce Chen hasn’t exactly been what people have come to think of when they hear Bruce Chen.
Contrary to popular belief, which is fairly understandable, Bruce Chen comes from Panama. The 36-year-old left-hander struggled for many of his 14 MLB seasons. A career that has included a short five game stint with the Boston Red Sox. Chen’s career ERA is in the mid-4’s but this year has been a different story for Mr. Chen. In his fifth season in Kansas City, Chen has finally found a home – something he never seemed to be able to do since he arrived in the Big Leagues. Now comfortable, Chen is throwing the ball better than he ever has before. Much better, actually. A 2.03 ERA is much better than half his career mark and it doesn’t seem to be that low due to any fluke. A WHIP of 1.09 and nearly 60 innings pitched suggests Chen has found something this year.
The Royals certainly have. Kansas City remains one of the hottest teams in baseball and looks poised to potentially leapfrog in Indians in the AL Central with a team that features a whole lot of young talent. Jon Lester should have his work cut out for him on the road against the scorching Royals. Lester seemed to “be back” after two consecutive nice outings against Tampa Bay and Baltimore but then he scuffled in his last go at home against the relatively light-hitting D’backs. Lester has disappointed mightily this year after a phenomenal start. His ERA now now sits over 4.50 and the lefty’s tank seems to be running low in the dog days of summer.
I have trouble accepting the fact that Lester should be favored in this spot. The Sox have been a defined top-tier American League team all year but recent struggles with the offense – in particular Mike Napoli leads me to believe this team isn’t currently as good as the record indicates. Chen has had career success against members of the Red Sox he has faced several times and is throwing the ball on a completely different level this season. Even if Kansas City’s chances are simplified down to a coin flip, they still offer five cents on the dollar with a +110 price as a home pup. I make Kansas City no worse than that with the better arm and hotter team playing at home.
Free Pick: Kansas City +110