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KANSAS CITY Sergei Bobrovsky Jersey , Mo. — The Boston Red Sox and the Kansas City Royals, two diametrically opposite clubs, meet in a three-game series beginning Friday night at Kauffman Stadium.

To say they are polar extremes would not be an exaggeration.

The Red Sox own the best record in the majors at 59-29. They have won eight of their past 10 and 10 of their past 13. They are 30 games over .500 for the first since they ended the 2013 season 32 games above.

Boston leads the American League with 463 runs and has outscored its opponents by 130 runs.

On the flip side, the Royals have lost six straight, 18 of 21 and 25 of 30. They are 25-61 and are 36 games below .500 for the first time since ending the 2006 season 62-100.

Kansas City ranks last in the American League with 297 runs and has been outscored by 167 runs.

“We didn’t have opportunities to manufacture runs,” manager Ned Yost told reporters after Wednesday’s 3-2 loss to the Cleveland Indians. “We had opportunities with runners in scoring position that we couldn’t capitalize on. And that’s been a major problem for us all year long.”

The Red Sox are 31-17 on the road. The Royals have lost 12 of their last 13 games at Kauffman Stadium and their 11-32 home record is the worst in the majors.

The Royals have not scored more than four runs in 25 of their last 26 games. They have failed to collect double-figure hits in 25 of their last 26 games and are batting .191 with 55 runs in that stretch.

And who do the Royals face in the opener of this series?

None other than dominant left-hander Chris Sale, who leads the American League with 164 strikeouts and is averaging 12.7 strikeouts per nine innings. Opponents own a .179 batting average versus Sale (8-4, 2.41 ERA).

“He looks like the best pitcher in the big leagues right now,” Boston manager Alex Cora said.

Sale, who ranks among the league leaders in overall ERA, owns a 2.32 road ERA and a 2.45 night ERA. He enters the game having not allowed a run in his past 15 innings. Sale is 3-1 with a 1.03 ERA in his past five starts after striking out and allowing a first-inning single to Giancarlo Stanton in seven dominant innings in an 11-0 win at Yankee Stadium over the New York Yankees on Saturday.

“He was outstanding again,” Cora said. “Fastball command and off-speed pitches, it was a great performance.”

Sale is 10-10 with a 2.92 ERA in 33 career appearances, 22 starts, against Kansas City. He held the Royals to two runs and five hits while walking two and striking out six over seven innings in a no-decision on May 1 at Fenway Park. Sale is 2-0 with a 2.87 ERA in his last four starts in Kansas City, striking out 34 and walking five.

The Royals will counter with right-hander Jason Hammel Billy Price Jersey , who is 2-10 with a 5.56 ERA. He is tied for the AL lead in losses and has yielded 15 runs in his last two starts. He is 0-5 with a 4.33 ERA in seven home starts this season.

Against the Red Sox, Hammel is 3-4 with a 5.13 ERA in 16 career appearances, nine of them starts. He dropped a 10-6 decision on April 30 to Boston, allowing eight runs on eight hits, including a pair of home runs, and three walks over 4 2/3 innings.

While Sale was the AL Pitcher of the Month for June, Hammel went 0-5 with a 6.43 ERA in six starts last month after ending May with back-to-back victories.

Hammel’s biggest challenge will be Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez. They rank 1-2 in the majors in slugging percentage with Betts at .669 and Martinez .642.

Betts has 21 home runs and a .338 batting average. Martinez is hitting .327 with a major league-best 26 home runs, which is more than any Boston player hit in 2017.

Betts also hit three homers at Fenway Park on May 2 and went 4-for-4 in that game.

Four years ago Mikaela Shiffrin had a ”crazy” dream of winning five gold medals at the 2018 Olympics. That aim is seeming less and less unrealistic.

Just after becoming the youngest ever Olympic slalom champion at the Sochi Games, the then 18-year-old Shiffrin dreamed aloud ”of the next Olympics (and) winning five gold medals.”

Right away she admitted her ambition ”sounds really crazy.”

However, less than five weeks ahead of the Pyeongchang Olympics, that number seems more obtainable than ever before.

Shiffrin probably won’t win that handful of gold medals, but mainly because she is unlikely to enter five different events in South Korea.

She will only decide on short notice which events she is going to enter at the Olympics.

Unlike at previous games, this time the technical races of GS and slalom are the first events on the women’s Alpine Olympic schedule, enabling Shiffrin to compete in her core disciplines before making up her mind on possible starts in the speed events of downhill and super-G, and the concluding combined and team events.

Developed into a potential winner of every race she competes in, and even triumphing for the first time in a downhill in December Tuukka Rask Jersey , Shiffrin has been dominating the Alpine skiing World Cup for months.

Her win in a slalom in Slovenia on Sunday was her ninth of the season, and seventh out of the last eight races, boosting her career total to 40.

That number leaves her one short of the all-time record for most World Cup wins by a 22-year-old, set by Austrian great Annemarie Moser-Proell in the 1970s.

With the World Cup season approaching the halfway mark, Shiffrin is leading the overall standings as well as every single discipline except for super-G, the only event she hasn’t won yet.

Her season stats are even far exceeding her achievements from last year, when she became the third American female skier after Tamara McKinney and four-time champion Lindsey Vonn to win the overall title.

Though winning is not all what Shiffrin is after.

”It’s a good way to put it that I am not competing, I am just enjoying every turn that I make, to make every turn aggressive,” Shiffrin said. ”Right now I am just enjoying that so much, the skiing, that it’s even more important than the winning.”

Still, the wins keep piling up.

With 100 points for every victory, Shiffrin has racked up 1,281 World Cup points after 18 of this season’s 38 races and looks set to break the record for the most World Cup points in a single season – 2,414 by retired Slovenian great Tina Maze Sam Hubbard Jersey , a record many deemed unbreakable.

In her main event, Shiffrin is not just winning, she is crushing the field. She triumphed in the past four slaloms by margins of 1.64, 0.89, 1.59 and again 1.64 seconds – a country mile in the sport.

Having won 20 of the last 25 slaloms she entered, it’s hard to see past Shiffrin for gold at the Pyeongchang Games, even if the American doesn’t regard herself unbeatable by any means.

”Every single of the competitors can match,” she said. ”That makes me even more motivated to keep moving forward.”

While a night race in Flachau on Tuesday will be the penultimate slalom ahead of the Olympics, Shiffrin will be eager to keep her momentum going in weeks to come.

After Sunday’s race, Frida Hansdotter of Sweden praised the American for ”taking the sport to another level.”

But Shiffrin, who usually refrains from keeping track of her records and statistics, said ”it doesn’t feel like it’s something crazy that’s happening.”

This time, she said, ”it’s not like dreaming. And that’s really cool.”


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