The Boston Red Sox (56-74) head north of the border to take on the Toronto Blue Jays (66-64). Boston begins the road trip on an 8-game losing streak after wrapping up an 11-game home stand where they managed to only win twice.
The Blue Jays just dropped two out of three to the Tampa Bay Rays and are now just as close to falling behind them in the division as they are to catching the New York Yankees for second place. Yet they are still clinging to slim playoff hopes at 5.5 games back of the second Wild Card spot with four teams to hurdle in order to get there. They are the only team in the majors with a run differential that breaks even, having scored and given up 574 runs this season.
- Clay Buchholz (5-8, 5.94 ERA) gets the start for Boston. Just when you think he's starting to turn a corner, Buchholz gets lit up again. He's yet to put together more than 2 quality starts in a row all season, so it almost wasn't a surprise when he gave up 6 runs his last time out following two very promising starts. His ERA is nearly a full run higher than any qualified starter in the AL and his 1.55 WHIP is also easily the worst in the league.
- David Ortiz is out of the lineup tonight after fouling a ball off his foot yesterday and getting drilled in the elbow the previous game. He's a bit banged up, but should be back in the lineup soon. He's available to pinch hit, which is a good sign he won't be out much longer. Mike Napoli will DH with Daniel Nava at 1B.
- We're likely to see Brock Holt at SS a lot this week while Xander Bogaerts recovers from concussion symptoms on the 7-Day DL. Bogaerts was hit in the head by a pitch from Felix Hernandez on Friday and won't be activated before the weekend at the earliest.
- Dustin Pedroia is hitting .308 in the month of August so far, making it the only month this season he's been over .300 – which is his career average. He's on pace for the lowest average of his career (.281), but a strong finish could at least push him to within range of what we expect from him. More concerning is his slugging percentage (.372), which has declined each of the past four seasons. He's almost certain to set a career low in home runs and the 32 doubles he has so far are his fewest in any full season (besides 2010, when he played only 75 games).
- J.A. Happ (8-8, 4.39 ERA) takes the mound for Toronto. He's pitched a lot better at home this season, where he owns a 3.26 ERA. The biggest difference that sticks out when looking at his splits is that he strikes out a lot more batters when playing at home (55 strikeouts in 58.0 innings) compared to on the road (38 in 54.2 innings). That home strikeout rate of 8.5 K/9 would put him just outside of the top 10 in the AL, but his 6.3 K/9 on the road would put him in the bottom 10.
- Edwin Encarnacion returned to the Blue Jays lineup just over a week ago following a lengthy DL stint, but he's yet to regain his form at the plate. In 8 games since his return he's hitting only .161 with 1 HR and 3 RBI. Despite missing over a month, he still leads the team in homers (27) and he's 6th in the AL. He has taken Clay Buchholz deep a couple of times, but is also hitting only .125 over 24 at-bats in his career against him.
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