The AL East-leading Boston Red Sox have opened the final month of the regular season on a roll, and go for their second three-game sweep of the Toronto Blue Jays this season on Wednesday night at Fenway Park.
The Red Sox (84-55) have started September by winning four in row, beginning with rookie Clay Buchholz’s no-hitter over Baltimore in his second career start on Saturday. Despite owning the best record in baseball, Boston, which has outscored its opponents 31-15 during its streak, has not won more than five straight this season.
The Red Sox swept the Blue Jays (70-68) in Toronto from May 8-10, but haven’t done so at home since Aug. 16-18, 2004.
Buchholz hasn’t been the only newcomer helping out during Boston’s stretch run. Jacoby Ellsbury, who was recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket on Saturday, played in left field in place of the injured Manny Ramirez and fell a double short of hitting for the cycle in Tuesday’s 5-3 win.
Boston maintained its seven-game lead over the New York Yankees, who also won on Tuesday, and also reduced its magic number to 17 as the Red Sox try to clinch their first division title since 1995.
Ellsbury is 8-for-12 with a double, triple, two homers, five RBIs, five runs and two stolen bases since his recall. He had just two homers in 436 at-bats in Double-A and Triple-A this season.
“Every game (Ellsbury’s) played, it’s not only exciting, it’s very beneficial to us winning,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said.
Curt Schilling (8-6, 4.02 ERA) gets the start for Boston, and will try to end his struggles against the Blue Jays when he faces them for the first time since 2005. Schilling is 3-6 with a 5.68 ERA in 15 career appearances, including 11 starts, against Toronto - his highest ERA against any team.
After missing seven weeks with shoulder tendinitis, Schilling is 2-2 with a 3.48 ERA in his last five starts. He lasted seven innings and gave up just two runs on a pair of opposite-field homers by New York’s Robinson Cano on Thursday, but lost to Wang 5-0 at Yankee Stadium.
“In my mind, this was a big game today. And I got outpitched,” Schilling, who fell to 5-1 in eight starts this season following a Red Sox loss, told the Red Sox’s official Web site. “That’s disappointing.”
Toronto designated hitter Frank Thomas is 5-for-8 with four RBIs all-time against Schilling. Thomas went 1-for-4 Tuesday, and is hitting .352 (19-for-54) during a 14-game hitting streak.
Boston’s Mike Lowell went 0-for-4 to snap a 16-game hitting streak, which had been the longest current one in the majors. Still, he’s hitting .369 (58-for-157) all-time against Toronto and that’s the highest career average among players with at least 150 plate appearances.
Roy Halladay pitched his major league-leading seventh complete game for Toronto, which entered this series on the heels of a three-game sweep over Seattle. Now, Toronto will turn to Shaun Marcum (12-5, 3.75) as they try to avoid being swept.
Marcum is 7-1 with a 3.78 ERA over his last eight starts. He picked up a 7-5 win Friday against Seattle despite allowing four runs in five innings - just the fourth time in 21 starts this season he has failed to go six innings.
“He’s learning how to survive and that’s a good sign,” Toronto manager John Gibbons told the Blue Jays’ official Web site. “That’s a good test for young guys. A lot of them, when they don’t have their best stuff they can’t survive. He’s able to do that.”
Marcum has fared well on the road this season, going 7-2 with a 2.65 ERA in 16 outings - 10 starts - away from home.
He gave up five runs - three earned - in six innings of a 6-5 win on July 13 in Boston during his lone start and second appearance against the Red Sox this season. Marcum is 2-1 with a 2.57 ERA in seven career appearances - two starts - versus Boston.