Toronto (69-64) at Boston (71-62)

Rain Currently: Boston, MA, US
Temp: 62° F
  • Game info: 7:05 pm EDT Thu Aug 31, 2006
  • TV: RSN, NESN
Preview | Box Score | Recap

MORTON GROVE, Ill. (AP)—The Boston Red Sox cannot wait for September to arrive.

Closing out their worst month in more than 40 years, the Red Sox try to avoid a season-high seventh straight loss when they open a four-game series against Roy Halladay and the Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park on Thursday.

Going into August, the Red Sox (71-62) had a one-game lead over the New York Yankees in the AL East. Boston has since gone 8-21 to fall eight games behind New York in the division and 7 1/2 back of Chicago for the wild card.

Boston also lost 21 games in August 1985, as well as in June 1966—a month one day shorter than August.

The absence of injured stars David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez and Jason Varitek, combined with ineffective pitching, have contributed to the Red Sox’s fall out of first.

Ortiz, with an AL-best 47 homers, is to remain at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston until Thursday as a precaution while he undergoes more heart tests. The slugger felt palpitations earlier this month and was a late scratch before Monday’s 9-0 loss in Oakland.

Ramirez returned to Boston suffering from right knee tendinitis that has sidelined him for six of the last seven games. He leads the team with a .326 average and has 34 homers and 100 RBIs.

Team captain Varitek was placed on the 15-day DL on Aug. 1 with cartilage damage in his left knee, and is expected to be out until mid-September. Red Sox pitchers have recorded a 5.87 ERA and .313 opponents batting average this month with Javy Lopez and Doug Mirabelli behind the plate.

After taking two of three from the Los Angeles Angels to start a nine-game road trip, Boston was swept in a pair of three-game sets by Seattle and Oakland, capped by a 7-2 loss to the A’s on Wednesday.

Red Sox right-hander Curt Schilling became the 14th pitcher in major league history to reach 3,000 strikeouts, but he hasn’t won in five starts since Aug. 4.

“It’s very bittersweet,” he said. “When 14 people in the history of the game have done it, that makes me proud to have achieved it. But going through what we’re going through and doing what I did today kind of sucks a lot of the enjoyment out of it—most of it, if not all of it.”

David Wells (2-3, 4.98 ERA), Boston’s best pitcher in a dismal month, starts the series opener. The left-hander is 2-2 with a 2.65 ERA in five starts, with both wins coming at home.

Wells made his season debut against the Blue Jays on April 12, allowing seven runs and 10 hits over four innings of an 8-4 home loss. He is 5-10 with a 5.82 ERA in 20 starts against Toronto.

He failed to record a decision against Seattle on Saturday, allowing two runs and eight hits in seven innings of a 4-3 defeat.

“He’s a good, professional pitcher,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. “It’s a shame we didn’t have more offense to show for it, because he pitched a whale of a game.”

For Boston to end its woes, its depleted lineup needs to find a way to get to Halladay (16-4, 3.12), who is looking to avoid losing consecutive starts for the first time in more than two years.

The 2003 AL Cy Young Award winner last dropped two straight starts on July 16 and Sept. 21, 2004 after missing more than two months with shoulder fatigue.

The right-hander tossed a four-hitter Saturday for his fourth complete game, but his three-start winning streak ended in Toronto’s 2-0 loss to Kansas City.

“It seems like there’s always a couple of those every year where basically you get outpitched sometimes,” said Halladay, who struck out seven, walked one and retired 12 straight at one point. “Those are the toughest ones. You tip your hat, swallow your pride and go back to work the next day.”

Halladay is tied with the Yankees’ Chien-Ming Wang and the White Sox’s Jon Garland for the major league lead in wins, and is 1-0 with a 4.50 ERA in three starts against Boston this season.

The Blue Jays were swept in a three-game series by Cleveland, losing 3-2 in 10 innings Wednesday as closer B.J. Ryan allowed Jhonny Peralta’s two-out walkoff homer.

Vernon Wells had three hits and Bengie Molina and Alex Rios each had run-scoring singles for the Jays (69-64).

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Starting Pitchers

R. Halladay TOR vs. J. Tavarez WAS
16-5 Record 5-4
3.19 ERA 4.47
132 K 56
34 BB 44
1.10 WHIP 1.56

Scoreboard

Thursday, Aug 31