Royals, Red Sox face off on Sunday Night Baseball

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The Boston Red Sox host the Kansas Royals in the rubber game of a three-game series tonight on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball.

Boston power

The Red Sox's offense, the best in the majors, was on display in Saturday's 8-3 victory at Fenway Park. The Red Sox lead the majors in batting average, OPS and runs per game.

But they've done it all despite being among the worst teams with the bases loaded. The Red Sox rank 27th in batting average with the bases loaded and 27th in on-base percentage in those situations.

David Ortiz has been a big contributor. His Sunday Night Baseball accomplishments are detailed here, but it hasn't just been Sunday evening prowess that's propelling him. Ortiz has already notched the most single-season home runs (30) and doubles (41) for a player at age 40 or older. His 100 runs batted in currently rank third.

Another strong contributor is most valuable player candidate Mookie Betts. Betts has been one of baseball's most dangerous hitters when ahead in the count this season. His 1.594 OPS ranks second in the majors, and his .513 batting average ranks third.

Royals renaissance

The Royals have gotten back into the playoff race this month. Entering play on Aug. 6, the Royals had a 51-58 record, 9 1/2 games out of the wild-card race, the sixth team out.

Since then, they've gone 16-4, the best record of any team in that span. They still have four teams other than the wild-card leaders ahead of them, but the Royals are now just three games out of that second spot.

Their pitching has gotten hot. After posting a 4.38 team earned run average from April through July, they've notched a 2.53 mark in August, good for the best in the majors. They're holding opponents to an American League-best .618 OPS this month.

The hard-throwing Yordano Ventura will take the mound for Kansas City. The only qualified starter who throws his fastball harder than Ventura is Noah Syndergaard.

Ventura struggled in the first half with a 5.15 earned run average, 1.42 WHIP and just 6.6 strikeouts per nine innings pitched. But in the second half, he has a 2.65 earned run average with a 1.16 WHIP and 7.9 strikeouts per nine innings. He's been a better second-half pitcher throughout his career, with a 3.23 career earned run average in the latter half of the season compared to a 4.30 mark in the first half.