After a tough series against their arch-rivals, the Boston Red Sox’s remaining schedule doesn’t look quite as daunting.
Boston will be try to move closer to their first AL East title since 1995 when they open a three-game series with the Toronto Blue Jays on Monday night at Rogers Centre.
The Red Sox (90-60) dropped two of three against the New York Yankees this weekend, including Sunday’s 4-3 loss. Still, Boston owns a 4 1/2-game lead in the East, and its magic number for clinching the division title is down to nine.
Boston owns the best record in the majors, and also has a fairly easy schedule the rest of the way as none of their remaining opponents are in the playoff hunt. After visiting Toronto (74-75), Boston heads to Tampa Bay before wrapping up the season with a six-game homestand against Oakland and Minnesota.
The Red Sox are 5-1 in Toronto this season, including a three-game sweep in their last series there, May 8-10. Mike Lowell is hitting .364 (20-for-55) with six homers in 14 games against the Blue Jays this season, including a .381 (8-for-21) mark with four homers in five road contests.
“We may be out of a playoff race, but no one in here is giving up,” Toronto second baseman Aaron Hill told the Blue Jays’ official Web site. “That’s just the way it is. The bottom line is you come to win - no matter what.”
“It kind of seems appropriate that when we play them it should come down to something like that,” manager Terry Francona said. “We gave ourselves a chance. We came up short, but we’ll take that spot again with David batting.”
Lowell homered for the Red Sox, who lost for just the fifth time in 15 games.
The Blue Jays, meanwhile, have lost seven of nine including Sunday’s 8-6 defeat in 12 innings to Baltimore. Adam Lind and Russ Adams homered on consecutive pitches in the second inning for Toronto, which has scored 14 runs in its last two games after getting just 13 in its previous six.
The Blue Jays will be face Boston’s Tim Wakefield (16-10, 4.68 ERA), who is coming off his shortest start due to ineffectiveness since 2001. The 41-year-old knuckleballer, who has since left other games due to injury and to rest for the playoffs, gave up seven runs and 10 hits in three innings of the Red Sox’s 16-10 win over Tampa Bay on Tuesday.
Wakefield was coming off a 3 2-3-inning performance on Sept. 6 in Baltimore in which he allowed six runs in Boston’s 7-6 win. It was the first time since 1999 that Wakefield has failed to go four innings in consecutive starts.
“I have no excuses,” he told the Red Sox’s official Web site. “I just didn’t make good enough pitches when I needed to.”
Wakefield has made 44 appearances - 34 starts - against the Blue Jays, tied for his second-most against any team and just one shy of his total against the Yankees. He is 15-9 with a 3.80 ERA in those outings, including 3-1 with a 2.77 ERA in four this season.
Toronto counters with Dustin McGowan (10-9, 4.01), who gave up four runs in five innings of Wednesday’s 4-1 loss to the Yankees. He had lasted eight innings in each of his previous two starts, both wins.
McGowan is 1-1 with a 6.75 ERA in three career appearances against the Red Sox, all in Boston. His only start against them came on July 14, when he was pounded for six runs in five innings of a 9-4 loss.