Red Sox-Blue Jays series preview

August 13, 2013 - 5:49 am
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The Red Sox will make one more stop on this 11-day road trip, heading north of the border to take on the Blue Jays before returning home to Fenway. The Sox had the misfortune of running into a red-hot Kansas City team, dropping three of four tight contests to the Royals. Despite losing their first series since July 22-24, the Sox still lead all American League teams with 71 wins, and have established a three-game lead over the Rays in the AL East. Although the Red Sox dropped their last series, there's some good news. The club hasn't been blown out in quite a while. The last time the Red Sox lost by a margin of four or more runs was back on July 26, when they were shut out 6-0 by the Orioles. Out of the four losses on the road trip, the Red Sox have been within three runs in three of them. The team has generally been on the winning side of lopsided games, going 23-11 in games that were decided by a margin of five or more runs. At various points, the disappointing Blue Jays have looked like they might put together a lengthy hot streak and pull themselves back into the division race, but in mid-August, they find themselves in the cellar of the division, 16 games behind the pace and 10 games under .500 at 54-64. The Jays' pitching staff has been a disaster this season, even with the acquisitions of starters like R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson. The staff as a whole owns the second-highest ERA in the majors at 4.45, second only to the Astros. The rotation sits dead last in ERA (5.16), but the bullpen has been a pleasant surprise, as the relief corps ranks 10th in the majors with a 3.41 ERA, though they've allowed the fourth most runs in the AL. The Jays are coming off a series in which they, too, dropped three of four, with the Oakland A's taking the series thanks to a late-inning offensive attack in Monday's game. Toronto is 4-7 so far in August after going 10-16 in July. The Sox and Jays have already seen plenty of each other this season, with 13 of the 19 games on the season series already having been played, with the Sox taking eight of those 13 contests. It's been a while since the Sox headed to Canada, however; the last time the two teams met in the Rogers Centre was back on May 2. The Red Sox have won four of the six games played on the Blue Jays' home turf this season. Here are the pitching matchups for the three-game set: Tuesday: Ryan Dempster (6-8, 4.67) vs. Todd Redmond (1-1, 4.22) Wednesday: Jon Lester (10-7, 4.37) vs. Josh Johnson (2-8, 6.20) Thursday: Jake Peavy (9-4, 4.50) vs. LHP Mark Buehrle (8-7, 4.43) WHO'S HOT: RED SOX -- Shortstop Stephen Drew extended his hit streak to 12 games with a single and a double on Sunday, his longest streak of the season and the third-longest of his career. Over the life of the streak, he's hitting .422/.509/.622 with three doubles, two home runs and nine RBI. Consistent at-bats and no injury symptoms have really helped Drew find his groove at the plate, raising his line from .233/.313/.409 to .255/.340/.441 since coming off the disabled list back on July 20. -- With the Red Sox needing some offense out of third base, Will Middlebrooks got the call, and he's been productive in his first couple games back with the big league club. Middlebrooks came through with a big two-run single in the fourth inning of Saturday's game, going 2-for-4 with two runs scored. He also added a hit in Sunday's game, going 1-for-3 with a walk. Middlebrooks was hitting .192/.228/.389 in 53 games before being demoted to Triple-A. -- Ryan Lavarnway has been doing a solid job of filling in as the backup catcher in the absence of David Ross (who is working his way back, currently rehabbing with the PawSox), and has hit safely in his last four games. Lavarnway is hitting .268/.311/.375 in limited at-bats (17 games, 61 plate appearances), and has been solid behind the plate as well, allowing only five passed balls (with four of those coming in one inning while catching knuckleballer Steven Wright, tying a major league record) and throwing out 26 percent of runners, just above the league average. WHO'S HOT: BLUE JAYS -- Shortstop Jose Reyes has hit safely in his last 10 games, batting .311 with a double, three home runs and 10 RBI over the life of the streak. Reyes has slumped a bit over his last 15 games, at least by his standards, batting .250/.311/.397 since July 27, but he's still put up an impressive season in his first with the Blue Jays (despite missing more than two months with an ankle injury), batting .310/.367/.477 in 52 games, clubbing nine home runs and nine doubles while driving in 29 runs. -- Brett Lawrie has struggled to find his timing at the plate all season, dealing with injuries that cost him almost a month and a half earlier this season. But with consistent at-bats, Lawrie has been catching fire. The third baseman is hitting a scorching .439/.465/.569 in 11 games this month, knocking a home run, triple and four doubles. Lawrie, whose average fell below .200 less than a month ago, has bumped his line up to .250/.309/.435 on the season. -- Despite going hitless in his last two games, Jose Bautista has been swinging a big bat for the Jays. Bautista is hitting .338 with a .438 OBP (13 walks and only 10 strikeouts), four doubles and five home runs in his last 20 contests, driving in 14 runs. The right fielder is second on the Toronto club with 27 home runs, and is batting .265/.361/.511 in 111 games this season. WHO'S NOT: RED SOX -- Jake Peavy's second start in a Red Sox uniform didn't go quite as smoothly as his first. Peavy gave up a season-high 10 hits in five innings to the Royals, while tying his season-high in runs allowed with six. For the first time all season, the right-hander didn't notch any strikeouts, though he only allowed one walk. Peavy has given up a total of 14 hits and eight runs in his two starts with Boston, walking three while striking out seven and giving up three home runs in 12 innings. -- Though he's shown signs of heating up, Dustin Pedroia had a quiet series in Kansas City, going 2-for-14, though he did draw four walks. Pedroia has been cool at the plate for almost a month now, batting just .185/.283/.272 since July 19. Despite the slump, Pedroia is still hitting .291 with a .374 OBP, second on the club to only David Ortiz. -- Mike Napoli has been going through a rough stretch offensively, and while he did record his second multi-hit game this month on Friday, he went hitless in the final two games of the series with the Royals. The first baseman is hitting just .103/.297/.138 with one double and three RBI in his last nine contests, and .143 with three doubles and four RBI in his last 15 games. Napoli is now tied for the major league lead in strikeouts with 155. WHO'S NOT: BLUE JAYS -- The Blue Jays have been getting poor production out of the catcher position all season long, but the last couple weeks have been especially rough. J.P. Arencibia is hitless in his last nine games, going 0-for-22 and without a hit this month. He's batting only .031 since July 25 with three walks, nine strikeouts and one RBI. Josh Thole has four hits in his last three contests, but the backup catcher is hitting just .139/.253/.167 with two extra-base hits and five RBI in 27 games this season. A combination of Thole, Arencibia and Henry Blanco, who was released in June, has given the Blue Jays a .200/.248/.358 line from the catcher position this season. -- Closer Casey Janssen has been solid all season for the Blue Jays, but he had one of his worst outings of the season on Monday, giving up four runs on four hits and a walk and being tagged with the loss for the first time this year. He's now given up runs in his last two outings, allowing five runs on seven hits in his last inning and two-thirds. Janssen has otherwise been one of the most consistent closers in the league, with only two blown saves in 23 chances and a 4-1 record, and prior to the four-run implosion, he owned a 2.41 ERA in 37 1/3 innings. -- Adam Lind was hot for just about the entire first half, but he's experienced a drop-off in the unofficial second half of the season, batting just .175/.298/.313 since the All-Star break. Lind, who hit .348 over the course of May and June, has only one multi-hit game and one extra-base hit in August. The first baseman/designated hitter has compiled a .276/.345/.466 line in 103 games with 14 home runs, 22 doubles and 38 RBI.

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