Jose Bautista is hitting just .198 this season, although he does have five home runs. (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

Red Sox-Blue Jays series preview

May 08, 2015 - 5:24 am
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After a nine-game homestand against three AL East opponents, the Red Sox head north of the border on Friday for the second series of the year against the Blue Jays. Both teams are struggling, as Toronto is 5-5 in its last 10, and Boston is 3-7. The Red Sox sit in last place in the division with a 13-15 record that puts them two games behind the Yankees. Toronto is tied with the Orioles for third in the division, and holds a record of 14-15. The Red Sox have dropped their last two series, being swept by the Yankees and dropping two of three to the Rays. The Blue Jays, meanwhile, have won just three series on the year and lost two of three games in Fenway Park in late April when they last faced the Red Sox. Luckily for both teams, the division looks to be fairly evenly matched, so stringing together a few wins could mean capturing the top spot. "I think the whole division is a complete mud bog," ESPN's Buster Olney said on Middays with MFB on Wednesday. "We still haven't seen what's going to define the division." The Blue Jays are coming off a series win against the Yankees in which Toronto's pitchers allowed just eight runs through three games. This is welcome news for the Blue Jays, who have had similar struggles to the Red Sox when it comes to finding consistency on the mound. Even after the improved performance against New York, Toronto's pitching staff ranks 28th in baseball with a 4.83 ERA, 28th with a 1.46 WHIP, and 27th with a .269 batting average against. "We have not thrown the ball well from the rotation; we haven't gotten innings out of the rotation," Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos told reporters prior to the Yankees series. "Our offense has carried us, I think that goes without saying, but these guys are all capable of going on a run and getting a lot better." By comparison, the Red Sox pitching is 29th with a 4.86 ERA, 25th with a 1.39 WHIP, and 23rd with a .263 batting average against. In response to the poor start on the mound, the team dismissed pitching coach Juan Nieves on Thursday. Both teams have relied largely on their bats to win games. Toronto is first in the American League with 155 runs scored, tied for third with 34 home runs, and 6th with a .258 average. The Red Sox are slightly behind in each category, with 128 runs, 32 home runs and a .239 average. In the teams' first meeting of the season, the Red Sox took the first and last games of the three game series, 6-5 and 4-1. Toronto took the middle game with an 11-8 victory. Since scoring 18 total runs in that series, the Sox offense has sputtered, putting up more than three runs just once in six games. Nobody in the Red Sox lineup is batting over .275 in the team's last six games. Hanley Ramirez is still listed as day-to-day but has not been ruled out to play this weekend in Toronto. The Blue Jays have several key players on the DL, including shortstop Jose Reyes, second baseman Maicer Izturis and catcher Dioner Navarro. Here are the pitching matchups for the series: Wade Miley (1-3, 7.15 ERA) vs. Aaron Sanchez (2-2, 4.62 ERA) Joe Kelly (1-1, 5.72 ERA) vs. Drew Hutchinson (2-0, 7.47 ERA) Clay Buchholz (1-4, 6.03 ERA) vs. R.A. Dickey (1-3, 4.38 ERA) WHO'S HOT: RED SOX -- Pablo Sandoval, although going just 6-for-23 through his last six games, is hitting .300 on the season and .361 over his last 10 games. He has been crushing righties, hitting .384 from the left side of the plate, but has struggled as a right-handed hitter, with an average of just .074. -- Mookie Betts seems to have started to heat up. He has home runs in back-to-back games, including a multi-home run game on Tuesday night, when he became the youngest player to accomplish the feat since Jim Rice. Betts is riding a five-game hitting streak and has hits in eight of his last ten games. -- Allen Craig doesn't look great, but he has shown improvement since the beginning of the season. In his last five games he is 3-for-11 with a home run and a .429 OBP. He has reached base safely in each of those games. He will likely continue to see more at bats as long as Ramirez is out of the lineup. WHO'S HOT: BLUE JAYS -- Catcher Russell Martin is hitting .520 in his last seven games and has four home runs, four doubles, six RBIs, two walks and a stolen base in that time. His season average has risen to .286. Martin brings a five-game hitting streak into the series against the Red Sox -- Jose Bautista is slashing .304/.407/.522 in his last seven games. He does not have a home run in that time, but does have five doubles and four RBIs. On the season, he is hitting just .198, but he has five home runs and 17 RBIs. He had a five-game hitting streak snapped by CC Sabathia and the Yankees on Wednesday. -- After giving up four runs to the Red Sox to the Red Sox in the teams' last series, R.A. Dickey shut down the Yankees in his last start. He allowed just one run on three hits through eight innings of work. WHO'S NOT: RED SOX -- Dustin Pedroia has just five hits in his last 22 at-bats, and is just .115 with runners in scoring position on the season. After striking out with two runners on base in the ninth and ending the day going 1-for-4, Pedroia promised that his and the rest of the team's production in clutch situations will improve. -- After a great start on Opening Day, Clay Buchholz has struggled. In his last start he went 6 1/3 innings but allowed five runs on nine hits and two walks while striking out seven. Opposing batters are hitting .303 against Buchholz in 2015. -- Mike Napoli continues to struggle at the plate, as he has just seven hits in his last 39 at-bats. He has just two multi-hit games on the year, and is hitting .130 with runners in scoring position. WHO'S NOT: BLUE JAYS -- Third baseman Josh Donaldson has five hits in his last 26 at-bats. He started the year strong and still has a .301 average but has struggled more recently, hitting at .211 in his last 10 games. -- After hitting .325 with six home runs and 19 RBIs in April, second baseman Devon Travis has seen a dip in production so far in May. He is at .190 with one home run and four RBIs this month. -- Edwin Encarnacion is hitting just .261 in May, and his power numbers have been absent all season. After hitting 34 home runs last season, he has just four so far in 2015. He has a 15-game home run drought and has hit just two in his last 26 games.

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