After a grueling opening series against the reigning World Series champions, the Boston Red Sox are likely grateful to next face one of the AL’s perennial doormats.
Boston’s first road trip of the year begins Friday night in Kansas City, where the Royals’ bullpen is reeling after blowing leads in two of the club’s first three games.
The Red Sox (1-2) got little chance to ease their way into 2010, starting with a three-game set at home against the archrival New York Yankees. After a 9-7 win in Sunday night’s opener, Boston stumbled in two other close games, losing 3-1 in 10 innings Wednesday.
“They are always great games,” catcher Victor Martinez(notes) told the Red Sox’s official Web site. “Every time we play against each other, it’s like a playoff game. It’s pretty fun. It’s pretty fun to be involved with that. It shows you what kind of good teams we both are.”
Facing the Royals (1-2) should have a different feel after Kansas City stumbled to a sixth straight losing season in 2009. Since 2004, the Royals are the only team in the majors that has lost more than 60 percent of its games.
The Red Sox have taken advantage lately, going 11-4 against Kansas City in the last two seasons, but they split four games at Kauffman Stadium last year, part of a disappointing performance on the road.
Boston won the AL wild card despite going 39-42 away from home for the second straight season.
“I know in the end, you add everything up, and things didn’t add up very well on the road last year,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. “But I think it was for different reasons.”
The 43-year-old knuckleballer is back for another season after back problems limited him to 21 starts in 2009 and required offseason surgery.
“I feel great, 100 percent,” Wakefield said. “The surgery went well in October and I’m looking forward to a healthy 2010.”
Starting pitching is not expected to be a problem for the Red Sox, but their bullpen was shaky against the Yankees. Relievers have walked eight in 12 1-3 innings, and the bullpen allowed all three runs Wednesday after six shutout innings from John Lackey(notes) in his Boston debut.
Kansas City’s bullpen has been worse. After Royals relievers allowed six runs in the seventh inning of an 8-4 opening-day loss to Detroit on Monday, the Tigers scored six more off the bullpen in the final two innings of their 7-3 win Thursday.
Last year, the Royals ranked 29th in bullpen ERA (5.02).
The right-hander had a 1.57 ERA while winning his final four starts before his season was cut short due to an oblique injury. He has made one career start against Boston, beating Wakefield by tossing five shutout innings in a 7-5 win while with Atlanta on May 21, 2005.