04/27/10 1:37 PM ET
One a lonely number for Red Sox, Jays
By Spencer Fordin / MLB.com
The Red Sox's last six victories have all come by a one-run margin, notching the team's longest streak in that department since 1943. The Blue Jays, meanwhile, find themselves playing through a less representative streak. Toronto has led the American League in fielding percentage the past two seasons, but it currently ranks sixth and holds a heavily inconsistent pitching staff.
The Blue Jays have thrown 13 quality starts this season -- good for second in the AL -- but they have also seen their bullpen struggle to find any semblance of continuity. Toronto went into Tuesday's game with a 5.69 relief ERA -- which ranked 13th in the AL -- and then allowed one run in two innings of work to tip the scales in Boston's favor.
Toronto, which has lost four consecutive games and five of its past six games, will find itself looking to rebound on its own home turf. The club will have to face Boston left-hander Jon Lester on Wednesday, and he's thrown at least six innings in each of his previous six starts against the Jays. Lester is 4-2 with a 2.55 ERA in that span, and he fired four quality starts against Toronto in 2009.
And if prior results are any indication, the Jays may well need to find offense from center fielder Vernon Wells. Wells, one of the hottest players in the league, has 27 home runs against the Red Sox, which is his second-highest total against any team. Wells has more home runs than any other player against Boston since 2002, and he'll hope to add to that total Wednesday.
Red Sox: Bullpen taxed
Red Sox manager Terry Francona knows he needs to exercise restraint, but he doesn't know exactly how to do it. Seven of Boston's previous eight games have been decided by one run, and its bullpen has been worked heavily over that span. In fact, three of Francona's key relievers -- Jonathan Papelbon, Daniel Bard and Hideki Okajima -- were unavailable for Tuesday's contest.
"We really do need to stay away from Pap, Bard and Okie -- guys we've been leaning on pretty heavily," Francona said before Tuesday's game. "That's not a lot of fun to say that before a game starts, but it's fact."
Papelbon has made 10 appearances this season, while Bard and Okajima have both been used 11 times in the team's first 20 games. Manny Delcarmen has been thriving, holding opponents to the lowest batting average (.063) in the AL. But Francona doesn't want to overload his plate, either, which puts the bullpen in a fragile place.
"The bullpen's been taxed, because we've gone to guys," he said. "We haven't gone to them too much and we don't plan to. Once you go too far, you can't say, 'I'm sorry.' So we're trying to be cognizant of that and be aware and not make mistakes."
With Clay Buchholz going eight innings Tuesday, Francona turned to Ramon Ramirez in the ninth. The righty pitched a 1-2-3 frame to notch his first career save.
Blue Jays: Lewis leading by example
The Blue Jays may not have drawn it up this way, but they may have found their leadoff hitter by accident. Fred Lewis has begun to establish himself at the top of the order against right-handed pitchers, a role he might not reprise against Lester. Lewis, acquired from the Giants on April 15, has led off eight of the past nine games after an injury forced a cascade effect.
Toronto originally considered Lewis a reserve, but outfielder Jose Bautista was forced to move to third base due to an injury to Edwin Encarnacion. That pushed Travis Snider from left field to right, opening up a job for Lewis. Toronto manager Cito Gaston has been impressed with Lewis' performance thus far and believes that he may be an ideal leadoff man.
"You know what? He is," said Gaston of Lewis. "We talked to him when he first came over here [about] where he hit in the lineup with the Giants. He was a little confused when he was moved down to second and third down the order. He's pretty much been a leadoff hitter his whole career, so we'll keep him where he's comfortable and see what happens."
Toronto has gone with Mike McCoy and Bautista as leadoff hitters against left-handed starters.
When Boston registered 18 hits without a home run on Monday, it marked the first time since 1999 that the team has had that many hits without going deep. And when the Red Sox won on Sunday and Monday despite allowing 16 hits in both games, it marked the first time they've done that since 1946. ... When 38-year-old Jason Varitek had three hits, four RBIs and two runs scored on Monday, he did something only two older catchers -- Carlton Fisk and Tony Pena -- have done in AL history. ... Jacoby Ellsbury and Mike Cameron both took swings off a tee Tuesday in their bids to return from their respective injuries. ... Toronto had the fifth-highest attendance (14,776) of any game this season at the Rogers Centre on Tuesday night.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.