With two of their stars bruised and their ace battered, the Boston Red Sox are finding it harder than ever to remain optimistic in their push for a fourth consecutive playoff berth.
They’ll try to bounce back from their most lopsided loss of the season and avoid a third consecutive defeat Saturday night against the powerful Toronto Blue Jays.
The series at Fenway Park couldn’t have started much worse for Boston (69-54) on Friday night, when ace Jon Lester(notes) allowed a career-high nine runs - including two three-run homers by Lyle Overbay(notes) - in two-plus innings of a 16-2 loss.
“It’s tough,” Lester said. “We’re getting down to (crunch) time here and that right there doesn’t really help us.”
Neither does Dustin Pedroia’s(notes) lingering foot problem, which landed the 2008 AL MVP on the disabled list again Friday. Pedroia was activated Tuesday after missing nearly two months with a broken left foot, but aggravated the injury this week.
“We appreciate him trying to play because he’s really good,” manager Terry Francona said. “At the same time, and I know it’s hard for good players to be honest, but if he goes out there and hurts it, then we’re looking at something we don’t want to look at, and that’s a surgery.”
First baseman Kevin Youkilis(notes) is already gone for the season with a thumb injury, with outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury(notes) (broken ribs) and Mike Cameron(notes) (abdominal tear) also out until 2011.
The Red Sox, who haven’t dropped three in a row since a four-game skid July 4-7, still hope to chase down New York and Tampa Bay in the AL East.
A start from Daisuke Matsuzaka(notes) (8-4, 4.17 ERA) against the Blue Jays may help. Boston has won each of the last nine times the right-hander has pitched against Toronto, with Matsuzaka going 6-0 with a 3.79 ERA in those outings.
Matsuzaka, however, is 0-1 with a 5.84 ERA in his last two starts overall, including a rocky outing at Toronto on Aug. 10. He allowed four runs in 5 2-3 innings of Boston’s 7-5 victory.
Romero (10-7, 3.43) has been sharp against most other opponents, though, and he returns to the mound after holding the Angels to one run in seven innings of a 4-1 victory Sunday - one day after signing a five-year, $30.1 million contract extension.
Toronto (64-57) has begun to expect big things from its offense, which had four more homers Friday, boosting its MLB-leading total to 187. Overbay had four hits and a career-high seven RBIs, while catcher John Buck(notes) went 4 for 5 in his return from the disabled list.
“They’ve been kicking our butt,” Overbay said of the Red Sox. “We’ve been struggling really bad against these guys. Hopefully, this will bring some confidence because I think everyone had good at bats.”
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