The Boston Red Sox (46-52) cross the border to take on the Toronto Blue Jays (51-48) for the start of a four game series. The Red Sox are riding high after sweeping the Kansas City Royals over the weekend and have won 7 of their last 8 games. The team is hitting .291/.368/.440 with 6 home runs and 25 extra-base hits over that span, while the pitching staff has a 2.25 ERA with 71 strikeouts over those 72.0 innings.
Unfortunately, the only other teams to go undefeated in the series following the All-Star break also happen to reside in the AL East. The good news is that the Blue Jays aren't one of those teams and Boston may be catching them at an opportune time. Toronto has lost 6 of it's last 10 games without slugger Edwin Encarnacion. In the 10 games since he hit the disabled list, Toronto is averaging 4 runs per game, which is about league average and nearly half a run less than their season pace.
- John Lackey (10-6, 3.79 ERA) gets the start for Boston. He rebounded with a quality start his last time out in Houston after stumbling through a rough patch over his previous three outings. However, he also walked a season high 5 batters against the Astros and had only 3 strikeouts. It was the first time all season he tallied more walks than strikeouts in a game.
- Christian Vazquez is back in the lineup tonight. Boston is still undefeated (4-0) when he starts behind the plate and he's off to a great start with his bat, hitting .385/.400/.615 so far. Small sample size? You bet! But for a guy that got called up based on his outstanding defensive abilities, anything they get from him on offense was supposed to be icing on the cake. The Red Sox will enjoy that sweet icing while it lasts.
- For all the flak the Red Sox outfield has gotten this season, July has been a different story. Among players with at least 10 starts this month, Daniel Nava (.382), Jackie Bradley (.375) and Brock Holt (.357) have been the team's hottest hitters.
- Shane Victorino is getting a day off, as the Red Sox look to ease him back in. He's expected to play 4 out of every 5 games and he's already played 4 straight days, dating back to his rehab assignment. Holt will handle RF with Nava in LF.
- Drew Hutchison (6-8, 4.16 ERA) will take the mound for Toronto. He also walked 5 batters in his last start, but the Tampa Bay Rays were able to make him pay for those free passes by torching him for 6 runs.
- Jose Bautista made the All-Star team based on his impressive performance over the first two months of the season, but has trailed off since then. In April/May he hit a combined 14 HR and drove in 40 RBI. Since then, he's hit only 3 homers with 19 RBI and is batting .214 so far in July. He enters tonight's game with a career .238 average against Lackey.
- Blue Jays outfielder Colby Rasmus upset Rangers pitcher Colby Lewis over the weekend for bunting against him. "You're up by two runs with two outs and you lay down a bunt. I don't think that's the way the game should be played," vented Lewis. Huh? There's nothing wrong with what Rasmus did. Baseball etiquette states that you don't bunt for a base hit late in the game to break up a no-hitter or when the game is a blowout. This happened in the 5th inning of a 2-0 game! If teams are going to continue to use drastic shifts defensively, there's nothing wrong with dropping a bunt on them. If you don't like it, don't shift. David Ortiz should do that more often.
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