David Ortiz has been hitting well at Fenway Park all season, but may have finally rediscovered his power stroke. The slugger now tries to overcome his recent struggles versus the Kansas City Royals as the Boston Red Sox open a three-game series against them Monday.
While Ortiz is batting .348 (56-for-161) at Fenway in 2007, he had gone 34 games without a home run until connecting in Saturday's win. The designated hitter capped a productive four games against the Toronto Blue Jays by going 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI on Sunday, but the Red Sox (55-36) were on the wrong end of a 2-1 score that resulted in a split of the series.
Ortiz went 8-for-17 with a homer and five RBIs in the four games, and will look to improve his mediocre numbers against the Royals since arriving in Boston in 2003. Ortiz - a lifetime .278 hitter against the Royals - is just 22-for-90 (.244) in 25 games versus Kansas City with the Red Sox. Among AL opponents, only his .235 average against the White Sox is worse in that span.
Ortiz and the Red Sox will be facing Royals pitcher Brian Bannister (5-5, 3.71 ERA) for the first time. The right-hander has won five of his last seven starts, but also lost two of the last three.
Bannister was plagued by a lack of run support in the two losses, with the Royals scoring just one run in those games. He was reached for four runs in seven innings of a 4-0 defeat to the Seattle Mariners on July 4 in his last start.
The Red Sox have lost five of their last seven overall, but still lead the AL East by nine games over the New York Yankees.
Kansas City (39-52) is in the second leg of a three-city, nine-game road trip that also stops at Detroit. The Royals dropped two of three games at Jacobs Field in Cleveland, including a 5-3 defeat Sunday in which losing pitcher Jorge De La Rosa walked six batters and allowed two hits - both homers - in just 3 1-3 innings before leaving with a bruised thumb.
"I pitched bad," said De La Rosa, adding that he doesn't know how he hurt his thumb. "I had a lot of walks."
Mark Teahen had two hits for the Royals, and went 6-for-13 (.462) with four runs scored in the series.
Red Sox rookie Kason Gabbard (2-0, 4.87) tries to remain perfect at Fenway Park as a starter. The left-hander is 3-0 with a 2.55 ERA lifetime there, including two wins in as many starts this year. He pitched well at Detroit on July 7, limiting the Tigers to two runs in a season-high 6 1-3 innings before the Red Sox lost 3-2 in 13 innings.
He will be making his first-ever appearance against the Royals, who have lost 12 of their last 15 games at Boston since the start of the 2003 season.