Series Preview: Blue Jays at Red Sox

USA TODAY Sports

The Jays come to Boston for the first time in 2013, but hopefully without a different result than the Sox' Canada trips.

So, that didn't go well: the Red Sox dropped three of four to the Twins, including the last three of the series, and saw their run differential basically chopped in half. Of course, it's just May, they're still in first place -- a three way tie where they're only separated by .007 points of winning percentage -- and now they're back to facing the Blue Jays, whom they've taken four of six from to this point.

The Jays have dropped two in a row, and are still at the bottom of the American League East, 8-1/2 back of the Red Sox. Boston could push their lead over Toronto that much further if they win the series, and considering the way the week has gone, losing six of their last seven, it'd be nice if they squashed the Jays a third time to get things back on track. Plus, it would be good to head into Monday's off-day -- the last they have until June 3 -- on a positive note.

Game 1 (7:10 pm ET): Ramon Ortiz vs. Jon Lester

Yes, that Ramon Ortiz. With Josh Johnson on the disabled list and J.A. Happ out after taking a line drive to the head -- thankfully, he's been released from the hospital and is expected to be fine -- Ortiz has been called up, since reintroducing Ricky Romero to the majors worked out even worse for the Jays than Daniel Bard did for the Red Sox. Ortiz has thrown 3-1/3 innings of relief in one appearance this year, but the 40-year-old right-hander did well enough for himself at Triple-A Buffalo to get the call, too. What we'll see out of him against Boston's lineup is anyone's guess, as he should be cannon fodder, but the Sox haven't been hitting much of late.

Lester managed a quality start against the Rangers, and while that's not as impressive as some of his other outings at first blush, the Rangers can hit, and play in a park built for hitters. With any luck, Lester's Friday night start will go more in that direction than that of his previous outing against Toronto, in which he allowed five runs in six innings. With a little help from poor defense, yes, but still: better, please.

Game 2 (1:35 pm ET): Mark Buehrle vs. Clay Buchholz

Buehrle lasted just 6-2/3 innings the last time he faced the Red Sox, but also gave up five runs and three homers in the process. Boston could use another iffy outing like that from the veteran left-hander, while it goes without saying that the Blue Jays need better pitching out of their off-season acquisition if they plan on climbing out of his early season hole they've dug for themselves anytime soon.

Clay Buchholz is facing the Blue Jays again, which should be unbearable to sit through if you're in a room with the wrong people. Hopefully, Buchholz tears through the lineup again like he did previously. People have been pointing to his start against the Twins as proof that he needs to cheat to win or some such nonsense, but whatever. He gave up a couple of runs in the first inning before logging his second out, courtesy a few hits and a pair of walks, and then allowed two runs in his next 5-2/3 innings while striking out nine and walking no one else. If he hadn't tossed so many pitches in the first before he got on track -- seriously, like 10 fewer -- he just might have ended up with a quality start and maybe even double-digits in strikeouts.

Let's not overreact one way or the other because of a rough first six batters, please. As with anything else, one start, one inning, whatever, isn't going to tell us what we want to know. Just like Saturday's start won't necessarily tell us anything. What we do know, however, thanks to much larger sample sizes, is that Buchholz has an ERA hovering around three in his last 201 innings. Probably fair to allow him a poor half-inning, yeah?

Game 3 (1:35 pm ET): Brandon Morrow vs. Ryan Dempster

Morrow's strikeouts have started to climb, putting him back around 2012 levels, but he's not back to where he was when he was such an exciting young arm. Dempster is missing all the bats, and has a sub-three ERA, but is also flashing a sub-.500 record through the first week of May. He had his lowest strikeout output against the Blue Jays last time out, logging four in six frames, but he also held them to one run and finished at exactly 100 pitches, so things weren't all bad. More of the same would be nice -- okay, maybe with a few more Ks, just in case.

*****

Will Middlebrooks is back in action after his collision with the wall and David Ross on Tuesday, as is Ross, though, his participation in this series is a little different than Middlebrooks' given he's the backup catcher. The Jays are missing the same folks as last time, with the aforementioned Johnson likely out around another month, and Jose Reyes still on the 60-day DL, where he'll stay until he returns to action.

As much as you can need a series win in the first half of May, Boston needs this one: taking two of three would put them at 23-15, and while it's not as impressive as their standing at this time last week, it would assuredly help them keep pace with the rest of the competitive AL East.

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