While the major league-leading Boston Red Sox find themselves on the verge of a historic April, it's been a forgettable opening month for the Toronto Blue Jays.
The Red Sox go for a franchise-record 19th win in April and sixth straight victory overall as they open a three-game set against the slumping Blue Jays on Tuesday night at Rogers Centre.
Enjoying its best start since 2002, Boston (18-7) has won 13 of 16 while averaging 5.1 runs and hitting .329 with runners in scoring position. The Red Sox, who went 18-8 in April 1998 and 2003, also lead the AL with a .221 opponent batting average.
"The fact is, we have three areas of the game where we're operating pretty well right now," manager John Farrell told MLB's official website. "We've had a very good offensive approach. ... We've done a very good job of chasing a starting pitcher to get into the middle of the bullpen. Our starting pitching has been very consistent. I think we've played very good defensively."
Boston hits the road after completing a four-game sweep of Houston with Sunday's 6-1 victory. John Lackey threw six strong innings and David Ortiz continued his surge with two hits and two RBIs.
Ortiz has gone 16 for 31 with two homers, five doubles and 11 RBIs in eight games since coming off the disabled list. He'll look to stay hot against the Blue Jays, whose 4.46 ERA ranks among the worst in baseball.
Toronto (9-17) returns home following a 1-6 trip. The Blue Jays dropped all four games at Yankee Stadium, falling 3-2 on Sunday.
"Obviously it's been incredibly disappointing for everybody," losing pitcher R.A. Dickey said. "The beauty of baseball is that it's only one month, so there's still time. But at the same time, we just can't keep going out there and saying, 'Oh, things will turn.' We know what needs to be done. It's just a matter of doing it."
While many expected the Blue Jays to compete for the AL East crown, they'll conclude April at the bottom of the division. Batting .229 on the season, Toronto has hit .179 with runners in scoring position during a 1-6 stretch.
"We just need to be more consistent and obviously I've looked at the team overall offensive stats, we're much better than that," said Jose Bautista, hitting .192 with seven homers. "It will even out, it will go back up, we just need to get hot sooner rather than later and just play consistent overall. That's it."
Bautista hasn't faced anyone more than scheduled starter Jon Lester, going 10 for 45 with four homers and 11 strikeouts.
Lester (4-0, 2.27 ERA) wasn't at his best but beat Oakland 6-5 on Wednesday after allowing season highs of three runs, six hits and six walks over 5 2-3 innings.
Lester was superb in a 13-0 win at Toronto on April 7, striking out six over seven innings of five-hit ball. The left-hander is 6-2 with a 2.13 ERA over his last nine road starts against the Blue Jays.
Toronto counters with Brandon Morrow (0-2, 5.27), who allowed four runs over 6 1-3 innings in Wednesday's 6-5, 11-inning win at Baltimore.
The right-hander has gone 1-3 over 16 games - eight starts - versus Boston while compiling an 8.28 ERA, by far his highest mark against any team he's faced more than twice. Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury and Ortiz are a combined 24 for 52 with seven homers against Morrow.
The Red Sox are expected to activate reliever Joel Hanrahan from the disabled list Tuesday. He's been out since April 13 with a hamstring injury.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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