These three are very good hitters, and Boston will need to contain them to win this weekend. (Photo by Abelimages/Getty Images)
The Red Sox are in last place, one game over .500, and just three out of first place. The Blue Jays are one game ahead of them, and they are just half-a-game back from the third-place Yankees. The AL East is wrapped up tight at the moment, and if one of these two teams can sweep, it would help alleviate some of that pressure.
It's baseball, so anything can happen, but you can't be feeling super confident about a Blue Jays sweep given the weekend's pitching match-ups. For once, Boston might have the upper hand.
Okay, so the pitching advantage isn't necessarily huge. But it's there! Clay Buchholz has been much better as of late, as we've already discussed in this space today. He's starting to throw his change-up more, and he's picking up both swings-and-misses and grounders. If he can just stay consistent, as he's been more most of the last four starts, then good things should happen for Boston.
As for Alvarez, that 120 ERA+ is not who he is, or what he's been. He's striking out 2.6 batters per nine, and while he's inducing grounders to make up for it, there's little chance his .253 batting average on balls in play is going to hold up if he can never miss a bat. If for no other reason than hitters will sit and force him to throw strikes, rather than attacking low in order to induce grounders.
Kyle Drabek is another who dislikes the strike zone, as his location of choice is low-and-away. The Red Sox lineup can certainly display the patience necessary to make that problematic for Drabek, as others have already this year and in the past. He'll be taking on the pitcher who has been the most consistent (and good) for Boston, in Felix Doubront.
Drew Hutchison is an odd choice for the lowest ERA+ of the group, considering he's the only one with a tolerable K/BB. He'll be taking on Daniel Bard, who hopes that his new old arm slot can do the trick for him once again. One tip this time, Daniel? Don't give up homers.
As for the lineups, Boston is still without Dustin Pedroia, but they apparently don't think it will be that way forever, as they didn't add an infielder before crossing the border to Canada. Even without Pedey in tow, Boston has the advantage offensively: Toronto has scored plenty of runs, but you can thank the disparity between their numbers with runners in scoring position and their overall offensive numbers for that. By True Average, they're just a bit above-average, whereas Boston is one of the league's best despite lacking one-third of their lineup for most of the year.