By Matt Straub
Remember when the AL East was a joke? Now the Blue Jays are in fourth place at five games over .500. The AL East is formidable again, and at the worst time for the Boston Red Sox, who are looking to catch everyone else from the baseman.
The Red Sox are in the middle of a 10-game stretch against AL East teams, and it comes right when the rest of the division has found its footing.
After surviving in Tampa, the Red Sox look to have a winning record in this 10-game stretch by beating the Blue Jays, who are still dangerous but have stopped playing like the 1927 Yankees. Here’s a look at how they can do it.
Boston Red Sox (34-43, last place AL East)
at Toronto Blue Jays (41-36, 4th place AL East)
Friday, 7 p.m.
Clay Buchholz (5-6, 3.68 ERA) vs. R.A. Dickey (3-7, 4.88)
Tuesday, 7 p.m.
Eduardo Rodriguez (3-2, 4.33) vs. Marco Estrada (5-3, 3.45)
Wednesday, 1 p.m.
Rick Porcello (4-8, 5.54) vs. Mark Buehrle (8-4, 3.81)
Thursday, 7 p.m.
Wade Miley (7-7, 4.38) vs. Matt Boyd (0-1, 5.40)
The good news is the Red Sox have won six of 10 and have shown occasional signs of life lately. The bad news is they’re missing a bunch of offense from Hanley Ramriez to Dustin Pedroia. The Blue Jays have finally cooled off, but they have won their last two series after losing two of three to Baltimore.
Three Blue Jays To Watch
1. Dickey is no longer the pitcher he was when he had his moment in the sun with the Mets. These days he’s very hittable, and the Red Sox should be favored tonight against Toronto with Buchholz steadily improving.
2. Estrada, on the other hand, is turning into a beast. He took a no-hitter into the eighth in each of his last two starts. He is one of the most unhittable pitchers in baseball right now not named Scherzer.
3. Jose Bautista is always one to watch. Whether he’s hot or cold, he can hit the ball 500 feet at any moment.
The AL West leading Astros, which sounds wrong on a number of levels, come to Boston Friday.