The Boston Red Sox aren’t in danger of missing the playoffs, but winning the AL East remains their goal despite their largest deficit in two months.
The Red Sox look to bounce back from a difficult week with their fourth straight win in Toronto on Monday in the opener of a four-game set against the Blue Jays.
After losing two of three to archrival New York last week, Boston (84-55) again dropped two of three over the weekend to Texas.
An 11-4 loss Sunday, coupled with the Yankees’ three-game sweep of Toronto, dropped Boston 1 1/2 games out of first place - its largest deficit since July 5, when the team also trailed New York by 1 1/2 games.
Although the Red Sox still hold a comfortable eight-game lead in the wild card race, Monday’s scheduled starter Josh Beckett(notes) said after beating the Yankees last week that the team won’t be satisfied.
“I want to finish first,” he told the Red Sox’s official website. “I don’t think anybody’s going out there going, ‘We don’t care.’ … You’d be hard-pressed to find anybody that says they don’t care.”
The Red Sox are 8-4 against the Blue Jays this season, and Beckett (12-5, 2.54 ERA) is trying for his fourth straight win overall. He gave up five runs and struck out eight in seven innings of a 9-5 win over New York on Wednesday.
Boston has scored four or more runs in each of Beckett’s last four starts, providing him with some help as he’s recorded a 4.68 ERA in those outings.
Beckett will try to provide some rest for the Red Sox bullpen, which has a 7.71 ERA in four September games after giving up five home runs over 14 2-3 innings to the Rangers.
The right-hander has faced Toronto just once this year, allowing one run and three hits while striking out nine in seven innings of a 4-1 home victory April 16. That was an encouraging sign for Beckett, who has struggled over his career against the Blue Jays.
Beckett’s 6.57 ERA versus Toronto is his highest against any AL opponent, and he’s gone 1-2 with a 9.28 ERA in six starts at Rogers Centre.
He won’t need to be perfect if Boston’s offense can duplicate its numbers from the team’s last visit. The Red Sox swept the three-game series June 10-12, outscoring the Blue Jays 35-6.
Toronto (69-71) has lost eight of 11 overall, including a 9-3 defeat to the Yankees on Sunday.
“It’s obviously a great individual achievement,” he said. “But again, our focus is on winning games. We still have 22 to go, hopefully we can win some of these.”
Bautista is 3 for 9 with two homers against Beckett, although he went 0 for 3 against him in April.
Making his fifth start, the right-hander gave up three hits over eight innings of a 13-0 win over Baltimore on Wednesday.