With three weeks of exclusively AL East baseball left to go, the Red Sox kick off their biggest series of the year to date in Toronto as they task Rick Porcello with keeping them atop the division against their biggest rivals in the Blue Jays.
|BOSTON RED SOX||TORONTO BLUE JAYS|
|Dustin Pedroia, 2B||Devon Travis, 2B|
|Xander Bogaerts, SS||Josh Donaldson, 3B|
|David Ortiz, DH||Edwin Encarnacion, 1B|
|Mookie Betts, RF||Jose Bautista, DH|
|Hanley Ramirez, 1B||Troy Tulowitzki, SS|
|Travis Shaw, 3B||Dioner Navarro, C|
|Sandy Leon, C||Michael Saunders, RF|
|Jackie Bradley Jr., CF||Melvin Upton Jr., LF|
|Brock Holt, LF||Kevin Pillar, CF|
|Starting Pitcher -- Rick Porcello||Starting Pitcher -- Marco Estrada|
This opening series will very much set the stage for the final playoff push facing both the Red Sox and Blue Jays, to say nothing of the Baltimore Orioles. With just one game separating Boston from their Canadian competition, the Sox are out to create a cushion between them and second place, while the Jays could pull back into a tie or even flip the tables in a big way with a series sweep.
At the moment, the Red Sox certainly seem to be the hotter team, but where the Sox were facing some weak competition out west, the Jays were taking their lumps from a revitalized Yankees team that has come a long way to even find themselves on the periphery of the playoff chase. If they were swept, they lost no game by more than two runs. Certainly there's no opportunity here for the Sox to let their guard down.
They will, however, at least have the benefit of a full lineup for the first time this week. After three days of National League baseball, they're happy to have the DH spot back for David Ortiz, along with a seemingly revitalized Travis Shaw at third after a brief experimental spell with Yoan Moncada.
On the mound, the Sox have their most reliable arm in Rick Porcello getting the start, while the Jays turn to Marco Estrada. The last time the Sox faced him, Estrada largely shut them down for eight innings, but he's struggled with consistency of late. On the one hand, he's allowed 16 runs in three starts of five innings or less against the Yankees, Angels, and Rays. On the other, the best team he faced in that span was Baltimore, and he held them to all of one run over seven. Hopefully he's not looking to play up to his competition again.
First pitch is at 7:10 p.m. ET with broadcasts on NESN and WEEI.