One can only imagine where Clay Buchholz might be if it weren't for a neck strain that held him out for three months.
Buchholz will shoot for a 12-0 record Saturday when the newly crowned AL East champion Boston Red Sox host a Toronto Blue Jays team he has long dominated.
The Red Sox (94-61) clinched their first division title since 2007 on Friday, beating Toronto 6-3 behind seven innings of one-run ball from Jon Lester.
"Winning the American League East is something everybody in here should be proud of," manager John Farrell said. "When we got in the playoffs last night - to see there was no response, there was no celebration, that to me spoke as much volume as anything we've done in the year. It's a focused group. It's their time tonight to go and enjoy it."
Dustin Pedroia, batting .356 during a 10-game hitting streak, added three hits for the Red Sox, who are a major-league best 19-6 since Aug. 24.
"People have got to believe we've got a good team," said David Ortiz, who has seven RBIs in his last eight games. "We're going to take this all the way there.'
Buchholz (11-0, 1.51 ERA) hasn't shown any rust in his return from the disabled list, holding Tampa Bay and the New York Yankees without an earned run over 11 innings. On Sunday, he limited the Yankees to an unearned run and two hits in six innings of a 9-2 win.
"It's fun to play ball when things are going right. That's how this team's been all year," said Buchholz, who has won five consecutive starts around his DL stint. "To run back out there two starts in a row, that's what I want to do. That's where I want to be."
Buchholz will look to draw within two wins of Roger Clemens' franchise-best 14-0 start in 1986. He has two wins versus the Blue Jays this year - limiting them to two runs and eight hits in 15 innings - and is 9-2 with a 2.21 ERA against them since 2009.
"He started out one of the best pitchers in baseball and unfortunately his season was interrupted with the three months' down time,' Farrell said.
Buchholz has the lowest opposing batting average (.190) of any American League pitcher with at least 300 at_bats against.
While Buchholz has yet to lose, Mark Buehrle can't win of late.
Since going 6-0 with a 1.93 ERA from July 25 through Aug. 30, Buehrle (11-9, 4.17) is winless in three starts.
The left-hander allowed three runs - two earned - in five innings of a 3-1 loss to Baltimore on Sunday.
Buehrle has been up-and-down against Boston this season, twice posting seven innings of one-run ball, but allowing nine runs in 12 2-3 innings of his other two starts.
The Red Sox may get Shane Victorino, a late scratch from Friday's game with a jammed right thumb, back on Saturday.
"As he's been dealing with a number of things, yeah, this isn't something that's going to keep him out for a long period of time," Farrell told the team's official website. "He's a tough player. He does have a high pain threshold."
Toronto's Colby Rasmus is questionable after being accidentally beaned by a warmup throw from fellow outfielder Anthony Gose on Friday.
"He's in the hospital," Gose told the team's official website. "That tells you enough right there."
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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