Toronto (79-68) at Boston (86-60)

Partly Cloudy Currently: Boston, MA
Temp: 83° F
  • Game info: 12:35 pm EDT Sat Sep 13, 2008
  • TV: RSN, NESN
Preview | Box Score | Recap

In one day, the Boston Red Sox can greatly boost their playoff hopes while putting a damper on Toronto’s. But that could be tough against A.J. Burnett, Jesse Litsch and the Blue Jays.

With a chance to move into a tie atop the AL East, the Red Sox try to solve a couple of red-hot Blue Jays starters when the teams continue a four-game series with a day-night doubleheader Saturday at Fenway Park.

Boston (86-60) won 7-0 over Toronto (79-68) on Friday night in this series’ opener, moving within two games of first-place Tampa Bay in the AL East.

The Red Sox had lost their previous two contests on the Rays’ last at-bat, missing a chance to take the division lead. On Saturday, Tampa Bay will be playing a doubleheader against the New York Yankees, giving Boston a chance to move into a tie for first place if it wins its two games and the Rays get swept.

“We’ve got a lot of baseball (Saturday),” said Red Sox manager Terry Francona, whose team has taken a six-game lead in the AL wild-card race over Minnesota and a seven-game advantage over Toronto.

But with Burnett (17-10, 4.31 ERA) and Litsch (11-8, 3.70) pitching well, Boston may have trouble winning one game. Both will pitch on three days’ rest.

Burnett and Litsch, who led a doubleheader sweep over the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday, have been two of baseball’s best pitchers in recent weeks.

Burnett, who will take the mound in the first game, is 1-1 with a 2.08 ERA in his last three starts while Litsch has gone 3-1 with a 1.26 ERA in his last five, including a shutout.

On Tuesday, Burnett allowed one unearned run and one hit while striking out seven in seven innings as Toronto beat Chicago 3-1. Litsch followed that up by giving up two runs and six hits while striking out six in seven innings to earn a win as Toronto beat the White Sox 8-2 in the finale.

Litsch, a right-hander, is 4-1 with a 3.58 ERA in five starts against the Red Sox.

Burnett, meanwhile, is 4-0 with a 2.70 ERA in six outings versus Boston. The right-hander has a career-high 208 strikeouts to lead the AL.

Boston first baseman Sean Casey, batting .565 (13-for-23) against Burnett, is expected to play in one of the two games. Casey has played just twice since Aug. 19 because of a sore neck.

But Red Sox right fielder J.D. Drew, who hasn’t played since last month because of a back injury, has left the team because of a death in the family and will miss the rest of this series.

Toronto’s lineup, meanwhile, managed three hits in the opener of this series after averaging 6.3 runs in its previous three contests. The Blue Jays, who have lost two of three following a season-high 10-game winning streak, have 15 games left to make a last-ditch run at a playoff spot.

“Unfortunately, we’ve put ourselves in must-win situations for about the last month,” Toronto third baseman Scott Rolen said. “Come out (Saturday) and hopefully take two.”

The Blue Jays will face Paul Byrd (11-11, 4.39 ERA) in Game 1, and Bartolo Colon (4-2, 4.09 ERA) in the finale. Byrd has posted a 3.51 ERA en route to winning his last four starts.

Since being acquired from Cleveland on Aug. 12, he is 4-1 in five starts. The right-hander has won eight of nine overall since a five-game losing streak before the All-Star break.

In his last outing, Byrd gave up three hits in 6 2-3 scoreless innings as Boston beat Texas 7-2 on Sunday.

Byrd is 2-1 with a 4.03 ERA versus the Blue Jays this season, and 5-4 with a 3.39 ERA in nine career starts against them.

Boston activated Colon from the 60-day disabled list Sunday. He had been out since mid-June because of a lower back strain.

The veteran right-hander labored through four innings in his last start, giving up four runs and six hits as Boston lost 8-2 to Philadelphia on June 16.

Colon is 8-3 with a 3.85 ERA in 16 starts against Toronto.

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Starting Pitchers

A. Burnett Phi vs. P. Byrd Bos
18-10 Record 11-12
4.07 ERA 4.60
231 K 82
86 BB 34
1.34 WHIP 1.32

Scoreboard

Saturday, Sep 13