All it took to slow down the Boston Red Sox’s scorching offense was facing a Cy Young Award winner. If Shaun Marcum keeps pitching like one, it won’t take Boston long to tire of the Toronto Blue Jays.
The Blue Jays will look to complete a rain-shortened sweep of the Red Sox as the AL East rivals stage one of their 11 remaining meetings on Sunday at Fenway Park.
After scoring 37 runs during a three-game sweep of the Texas Rangers this week, Boston’s offense was quickly cooled by Toronto’s Roy Halladay, who tossed his major league-leading eighth complete game in the Blue Jays’ 4-1 win on Saturday.
The Red Sox (71-52) didn’t have an extra-base hit against Halladay until Dustin Pedroia’s home run to lead off the ninth inning. They had been scoring more than seven runs per game in August entering Saturday.
“You can’t get caught up on how a team’s going—good or bad,” Halladay said. “Sure they were swinging the bats good against Texas. I look at quality pitches. I try to avoid who’s hot and who’s not.”
Toronto’s quality pitching has hardly ended with Halladay. The Blue Jays (63-60) lead the AL with a 3.63 team ERA, something the Red Sox are familiar with after scoring 13 total runs in seven games against Toronto this year, losing five of them.
One of those was against Marcum (7-5, 3.42 ERA), who had struggled since being activated from the disabled list last month, going 0-1 with a 9.82 ERA in his first three starts.
Since then, he’s won back-to-back outings, allowing three runs in 13 innings. Marcum’s .218 opponent batting average ranks fourth in the majors.
“I’m locating my fastball now and that makes things a little easier for me,” Marcum said after allowing two runs in six innings of a 7-2 win at Detroit on Monday.
The right-hander beat Boston after giving up three runs and three hits in seven innings of a 6-3 win on April 4, moving to 3-0 with a 2.77 ERA in four career starts against the Red Sox.
Marcum will have a worthy adversary in Boston’s Josh Beckett, who is also seeking his third straight victory. Beckett (11-8, 3.92) has struck out 15 in 14 2-3 innings in his last two starts, giving up 11 hits and three runs.
Beckett hasn’t won three straight starts all season after going on runs of four and seven consecutive wins last year. In his last start, he gave up one run in eight innings of a 5-1 victory over the Chicago White Sox.
“He looks like he’s primed to go ahead and be the guy that we need,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said.
The only time Beckett has failed to last five innings this season came at Toronto, when he gave up five runs in 4 2-3 innings in his first start of the year on April 6.
He’s 3-4 with a 4.92 ERA in nine career starts against the Blue Jays, most often having problems with Vernon Wells. Wells is 9-for-27 against Beckett with five home runs.
Toronto trails Boston by eight games for the AL wild card, but it will have plenty of chances to cut directly into that deficit. The Red Sox visit Rogers Centre during a nine-game road trip next weekend, then the teams meet seven more times over a 10-day span in mid-September.
That stretch includes the makeup game from Friday’s rainout, which shortened this weekend’s series to two games.