So far, they’re making a convincing argument it’s made their lineup even better.
The Red Sox, the major leagues’ top-scoring team in August and winners of four straight, will get a stern test from Roy Halladay and the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday when the AL East rivals begin a rain-shortened two-game set at Fenway Park.
Halladay’s matchup with Paul Byrd, making his Red Sox debut, was originally slated for Friday, but heavy showers postponed the series opener. That game will be made up as part of a day-night doubleheader on Sept. 13.
Boston (71-51) was scoring 4.94 runs per game, seventh-best in baseball, before Ramirez was dealt to the Los Angeles Dodgers on July 31 in a three-way trade that brought outfielder Jason Bay to the Red Sox.
Their offense, though, has taken off without the slugging outfielder. The Red Sox are averaging 7.23 runs through 13 games in August, with Bay hitting .327 while contributing 12 RBIs.
Boston’s offense looked especially unstoppable in three games against Texas at Fenway this week. The Red Sox put up 37 runs in the series, completing the sweep 10-0 on Thursday behind a three-run homer from David Ortiz, the designated hitter’s third three-run blast of the series.
Ortiz struggled badly in his first seven games without Ramirez behind him, going just 3-for-28 (.107) with three RBIs. But as Kevin Youkilis has delivered of late in the cleanup spot, Ortiz has resumed his typical production in the three-hole. Ortiz is 8-for-18 (.444) with three homers and 12 RBIs in his last five games, while Youkilis is 10-for-22 (.455) with two homers and seven RBIs in the same stretch.
“We don’t need to rely on one guy,” said second baseman Dustin Pedroia, the AL’s leading hitter at .323. “We need all of us to accomplish our goals.”
The Red Sox have won 10 of 13 in August, including four in a row for the first time since a seven-game run from May 17-22, but on Saturday they’ll have to deal with one of baseball’s best starters. Halladay (13-9, 2.72 ERA) has the AL’s lowest ERA (1.93) since June 30, pitching two complete games for Toronto (62-60).
He has, however, had trouble with the Red Sox. The 2003 AL Cy Young Award winner is 2-5 with a 5.27 ERA in his last 10 starts against Boston. He pitched well in his last start at Fenway, allowing one run in 8 2-3 innings in a 1-0 defeat April 29.
Halladay wasn’t at his best in his latest outing, but he was also the victim of some shaky defense. He gave up four runs - one earned - and 10 hits in 6 2-3 innings in a 4-2 loss to Cleveland last Saturday, throwing a career-high 130 pitches.
“Physically, I feel fine,” Halladay told the Blue Jays’ official Web site. “You just prepare yourself—the only thing you do different is vary your work in between starts. I’ve never had a problem with pitch counts.”
Halladay’s mound opponent from his latest start will also be on the hill Saturday, albeit in a different uniform. Boston acquired Byrd from Cleveland on Tuesday for a player to be named, hoping he can fill in for the injured Tim Wakefield.
After going 3-10 prior to the All-Star break, Byrd (7-10, 4.53) has shined in the second half. He’s won four straight starts, posting a 1.24 ERA, and he pitched a six-hitter in the 4-2 win over Toronto last Saturday.
This time, Byrd will see a Blue Jays team that had won three straight in Detroit prior to a 5-1 loss on Thursday.
“I want to be counted on,” Byrd told Boston’s official Web site. “The alternative of that is taking the mound when games don’t count and you’re not in anything. And that’s not fun at all.”