The Toronto Blue Jays and ace Roy Halladay(notes) are struggling to end their respective droughts. They may have a golden opportunity to do so against a Boston Red Sox club that is suddenly short on starting pitching.
Halladay tries to avoid a third straight loss and help the Blue Jays end their seven-game skid at Fenway Park on Sunday, when the Red Sox are expected to start 38-year-old journeyman Paul Byrd(notes) - a pitcher who was retired when this month began.
Boston (75-54) took the first two games of this three-game series, extending its winning streaks against Toronto (58-69) to five games overall and seven at Fenway.
An injury to Tim Wakefield’s(notes) back, though, forced the Red Sox to shuffle their rotation and summon Byrd (11-12, 4.60 ERA in 2008) for his first appearance since last year’s AL championship series.
“By making this decision we were able to have him ready for Tampa,” pitching coach John Farrell said. “Most importantly for Jon’s planning and our planning, we took these measures.”
Byrd, who the Red Sox brought out of retirement when they signed him to a minor league contract Aug. 5, owns a 108-93 record for seven teams over 14 seasons. The right-hander’s last decision was an 8-1 loss to the Blue Jays at Fenway last Sept. 13, when he gave up five runs and 10 hits in five innings.
That contest was also the last time Boston lost at home to Toronto.
Halladay (13-7, 3.03) remains in contention for his second AL Cy Young Award, but is in danger of losing three straight starts for the first time since April 17-29, 2008, when the third defeat was at Fenway.
After giving up five runs over five innings of a 6-1 home loss to the Red Sox on Aug. 19, the right-hander yielded eight runs and 12 hits - both season highs - in six innings of Monday’s 12-7 defeat to Tampa Bay. Halladay denied late-season fatigue is bothering him.
“It just gets back to making pitches, it really does,” he said. “It’s that simple. When you don’t, they cost you. That’s really all I can say.”
The victory was the fifth in six games for Boston, which remained 2 1/2 games ahead of Texas and 4 1/2 in front of the Rays for the wild card.
Boston slugger David Ortiz(notes) went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts Saturday, but has six career homers off Halladay - the most of any player against the Blue Jays ace. He’ll try to help the Red Sox add to their 49 home runs in August, a club record.
The Blue Jays have lost four of their last five games and 10 of 13. Toronto starters have a 6.20 ERA in that span.