Lackey will try to avoid losing four straight outings for the first time in his career Friday night when these AL East rivals begin their final series of 2010.
Boston (82-64) has faint hopes of reaching the playoffs, trailing the New York Yankees by six games for the wild card with 16 to play. The Red Sox and Yankees have seven meetings left.
The fourth-place Blue Jays (73-73) haven’t provided much resistance, losing all five series against the Red Sox this year. This series pits the teams with the most homers in the majors, with Toronto hitting 227 and Boston 193.
Lackey (12-7, 4.12 ERA) has given up three homers to Toronto this year, including two to major league leader Jose Bautista(notes). The right-hander is 1-1 with a 7.71 ERA in three starts against the Blue Jays this season, with the Red Sox losing twice.
He hasn’t pitched too poorly in his three-start slide, posting a 3.98 ERA and receiving a total of six runs of support. Lackey gave up three runs over seven innings Saturday in a 4-3 loss at Oakland.
“In our situation you can’t make too many mistakes,” Lackey said. “In the first half of the season we were hitting the ball all over the place. Right now we need to pitch well and win games.”
This is the first time he has lost three straight since Aug. 4-14, 2006, with the Angels. The only time he ever dropped four consecutive decisions came during a five-start span in 2004.
Boston has won four straight after a three-game sweep in Seattle this week. Toronto has dropped seven of eight after being swept in Baltimore.
“This time, it’ll be two teams in there and it’ll just be about guys finishing the season strong, guys putting up numbers,” Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said about this series. “They’re still a tough ballclub; they’ve got a good pitching staff over there.”
One of those players putting up numbers is Bautista, who hit his 47th homer in Wednesday’s 3-1 loss to tie the club record set by George Bell in 1987. Bautista never hit more than 16 homers before this year.
“It was nice to do it for the fans, but ultimately the reason you play the game is to win and we didn’t do that,” Bautista said. “It’s been a very fun year on a personal level.”
Bautista is hitting .218 against Boston this year with six homers.
Toronto’s Brett Cecil(notes) (12-7, 4.12) will make his sixth straight start against an AL East foe. He is 8-2 with a 3.10 ERA in 12 starts within the division after avoiding a loss last Friday despite allowing seven runs over two-plus innings in a 9-8 defeat to Tampa Bay.
The left-hander is 1-3 with a 6.23 ERA in four career starts against Boston, but 1-1 with a 2.13 ERA in two in 2010.