After making the playoffs for three straight seasons, the Boston Red Sox are only mathematically alive to reach this postseason.
The Red Sox hope to fend off playoff elimination for the third game in a row when they play the second of a three-game set against the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday.
Boston (83-71) trails Minnesota by 7 1/2 games in the wild-card race with eight remaining.
Julian Tavarez’s first complete game in six years kept the Red Sox alive with a 7-1 win over Toronto on Friday, coupled with Minnesota’s 7-3 loss at Baltimore.
Boston was officially eliminated from the AL East race on Wednesday as the New York Yankees clinched their ninth straight division title.
Devern Hansack takes the mound for Boston in his major league debut after pitching Double-A Portland to the Eastern League title on Sunday.
The 28-year-old right-hander, who spent four seasons in Houston’s system, finished his minor league season 8-7 with a 3.26 ERA in 31 games—18 starts. The Nicaragua native showed solid control with 124 strikeouts and 36 walks in 132 1-3 innings.
Hansack will oppose A.J. Burnett (8-8, 3.97), who is making his final home start of another injury-plagued season—his first with the Blue Jays (80-73).
Burnett will make his 20th start on Saturday, 12 fewer than last season with Florida. The right-hander made only six starts prior to the All-Star break due to elbow problems, which have hampered him since 2002.
The right-hander has pitched well in his last four outings, going 2-2 with a 2.32 ERA and 29 strikeouts in 31 innings.
Burnett allowed four runs and seven hits, including two homers, with seven strikeouts in seven innings of a 7-6 loss to the Yankees on Monday.
“Two pitches, two pitches—that’s it,” Burnett said. “Two mistakes all night. I had them where I wanted them and it got away. So regardless of what happened after the sixth and seventh inning, I’ve got to keep us in that game right there.”
Burnett is 1-0 with a 2.77 ERA in two starts against the Red Sox this season.
He will not have Coco Crisp to worry about after the Red Sox shut their center fielder down for the remainder of the season to prepare for surgery on his left index finger. He originally sustained the injury sliding into third base on April 8.
His performance sputtered because of it, finishing with his lowest batting average (.264) since his 2002 rookie season and his fewest homers (eight) and RBIs (36) in three seasons.
“Maybe we can see that guy we saw in spring training and played against us in Cleveland, where that first fastball you threw he jumped on it with some authority,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. “He was having a real tough time. He was fouling the fastball up over third. He couldn’t change speeds (with his swing).”
Manny Ramirez may also not return this season after missing 12 games with tendinitis in his right knee. The slugger took batting practice on Friday for the second consecutive day.
“You know what, we’ve got nine games left, he’s trying,” Francona said. “Maybe he plays, maybe he doesn’t.”
Toronto has also shut down ace Roy Halladay for the rest of the season Friday due to a right forearm strain, which shortened his last outing to four innings.
“I realized this was the best and smartest thing to do,” Halladay said.