The Boston Red Sox are playing better after a rough start, but they’d surely like to enjoy an easy win for a change.
They may get their wish Wednesday night.
Following a 4-9 start, Boston (10-11) has won six of eight, but it hasn’t been easy. All six wins have come by one-run margins, as have their last five games overall. Boston’s nine one-run games are the most in the majors.
One-run games won by the Red Sox are about all the first two games of this series have had in common. After prevailing in a 13-12 slugfest Monday, Boston won 2-1 Tuesday behind eight strong innings from Clay Buchholz(notes).
“Last night we’re thinking about onside kicks and field goals,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. “Tonight there’s just not much to show for it, except for a win.”
Pinch hitting for the slumping David Ortiz(notes) with the bases loaded in the eighth, Mike Lowell(notes) drew a four-pitch walk from Blue Jays reliever Kevin Gregg(notes) to force home Dustin Pedroia(notes) with the eventual winning run.
“You’ve got to make him earn his way on the base right there,” Gregg said.
The Blue Jays (10-11) have lost four straight and eight of 11 following a 7-3 start.
Ortiz went 0 for 2 to drop his average to .154 - his second straight terrible start to a season trying the patience of the Red Sox, and diminishing his playing time. However, Ortiz may find encouragement when he sees Cecil (1-0, 5.40 ERA) toeing the rubber for Toronto.
Ortiz, who has one homer this season, didn’t hit his first of 2009 until May 20 off Cecil at Fenway Park. Though still well below his lofty standards from the middle of the decade, the Boston slugger finished with a respectable 28 homers - all in his last 115 games.
He wasn’t the only Red Sox hitter to have Cecil’s number. Current members of the Red Sox are 15 for 37 with six homers off the Toronto left-hander, who allowed 12 runs in 17 innings to lose both his starts against Boston as a rookie in 2009.
One of those outings was an 8-1 defeat to Lester (0-2, 6.23) on Aug. 20 at home. The Red Sox’s southpaw yielded one run and three hits over eight innings in that start, improving to 4-3 with a 3.03 ERA in nine outings against Toronto.
Trying to salvage one win in the season’s first month, Lester is seeking to overcome his own history. He is 2-6 with a 5.12 lifetime ERA in March and April, compared with 40-12 and a 3.50 ERA in all other months.
Lester appeared to be shaking off his early-season doldrums Friday, when he threw 5 2-3 scoreless innings against Baltimore, but wound up without a decision after the Boston bullpen squandered a three-run lead en route to an eventual 4-3 victory.
The last three series between these AL East rivals have ended in sweeps, with Boston winning two.