By Matt Straub
It’s hard these days to make the Boston Red Sox seem interesting or their games important. Fortunately for me and this column, the schedule makers have done it for me. This weekend, the Red Sox host the Toronto Blue Jays, with the Yankees needed Boston’s help to keep Toronto behind New York in the race for the final wild card spot.
Boston did its part to help the Yankees by sending the slumping Koji Uehara out to blow the game last night and giving New York a crucial series win, and can now cripple Toronto’s playoff chances with a win in a series for themselves.
There’s hope for the Yankees, as Boston sends Rubby De La Rosa, one of its best young pitchers, and Clay Buchholz, who was great in his last start, to the hill to try and fight off the Jays.
As the season winds down, Boston will be looking to see what they can do with its roster, which currently is full of young players who may or may not be part of the future. The more kids like Mookie Betts develop now, the better next year can be. And if they can show flashes this week, the Yankees are the team which stands to gain the most from it.
Toronto Blue Jays (72-67, 4.5 GB of second WC)
at Boston Red Sox (61-79, 16 GB of second WC)
Friday, 7:10 p.m.
Drew Hutchinson (9-11, 4.47) vs. Allen Webster (3-3, 6.69)
Saturday 7:10 p.m.
J.A. Happ (9-8, 4.37) vs. Clay Buchholz (6-8, 5.40)
Sunday, 1:35 p.m.
R.A. Dickey (11-12, 3.94) vs. Rubby De La Rosa (4-5, 3.89)
Playoff Picture: If you consider the Yankees still in the wild card race, then you have to consider the Jays contenders as well, since they are just ½ GB of the Yankees and 4.5 out of the last playoff spot. The Jays are playing well, but, like the Yankees, need to keep it up and get a lot of help to make the postseason. Still, it’s better to have a small chance than being in Boston’s spot and be dead.
Momentum: The Blue Jays are on fire, winning five in a row and having just swept the Rays after taking two of three from the Yankees. As of now, the Aug. 31 win for the Jays in which they rallied past the Yankees stands as one of the biggest games of the year for both teams. The Red Sox are coming into this series off one of the most gutwrenching losses of the year, when the once-invincible Uehara gave up two home runs to the Yankees.
Who’s Hot: Hutchinson has a chance to start the series on a strong note, having given up just one run in his last 13 innings, including seven scoreless against New York last week. Jose Bautista has been clubbing the ball of late for the Blue Jays, hitting three homers in his last six games while batting over .300. Dioner Navarro is 8-of-16 this week, so he could be a sneaky danger for the Sox. Boston’s David Ortiz is very dangerous, as was evidenced by the display he put on Thursday night in the Bronx. Dustin Pedroia is scheduled to return this weekend from a concussion, and Buchholz was dominant in his last start. Consistency hasn’t been his thing this year, but he comes in feeling confident at least. Betts continues to look like a budding star after a great week.
Who’s Not: Jose Reyes hit just .192 last week and Melky Cabrera just .120. Happ has struggled over his last three starts, and the Blue Jays might need him to pitch a big game if Buchholz is back on form. For Boston, Webster has been pathetic lately, with a 9.42 ERA in his last three starts. The bloom is off the Brock Holt rose. Holt, the best Red Sox player of 2014 for a long time, hit just .188 last week and doesn’t look like the guy who stole the show in the first half. Will Middlebrooks, who refuses to play winter ball to improve, is really struggling.
Looking Ahead: The Red Sox can continue to help the Yankees when they take on Baltimore starting early next week.