(Sports Network) - After beginning a six-game road trip with three straight losses to one division rival, the Boston Red Sox head to Toronto in search of some momentum. The Rogers Centre is a good place to look for some.
The Red Sox, hoping to avoid matching their longest losing streak of the season, seek a seventh straight victory in Toronto's home park this evening in the opener of a three-game series versus the Blue Jays.
Boston has lost four straight, one shy of a season-worst five-game slide from April 15-19, and was just swept in three games by Tampa Bay. The Red Sox dropped Wednesday's finale, 6-4, and are five games back of the first-place Yankees in the American League East.
"We had a lot of walks and we didn't make all the plays," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona, who remained stuck on 899 career wins.
Francona tries again to reach 900 career wins and will do so against a team the Red Sox have beaten in five of six matchups this year and 11 of the past 15 meetings overall. Boston swept Toronto in three games at Rogers Centre on April 26-28 and has held the Blue Jays to two runs or less in four of the six games during its win streak at Toronto.
Having All-Star Jon Lester on the hill tonight should also help Francona. One of Lester's best starts this year came versus the Blue Jays on April 28 as he yielded just one hit and two walks over seven scoreless innings in the victory, striking out a season-high 11. He got Jose Bautista, Alex Gonzalez and Aaron Hill to strike out twice each, while Vernon Wells had the lone hit off him, a double.
Lester is 5-3 with a 2.71 earned run average lifetime versus Toronto and 10-3 with a 2.76 ERA as he looks to become just the American League's fourth 11- game winner. He has won two straight starts and 10 of his last 11 decisions, with the left-hander giving up two runs or less in eight of his last nine starts, including just three runs in his last three outings.
The 26-year-old followed up a one-run, five-hit complete game versus the Giants on June 27 with seven-inning start versus the Orioles on Saturday. He allowed just a run on five hits and has struck out 118 batters in 114 innings this year.
"He was outstanding," said catcher Kevin Cash on Boston's website. "He's almost a different pitcher. He's always had the stuff, but the changeup tonight, I didn't really see that the last stint here. To be able to go to that in fastball counts, it's amazing what it's done for him. And he just pounds the zone all night, every pitch he has was going very well."
Ricky Romero will face Boston tonight for the first time this year after going 1-3 with a 7.66 ERA in five starts versus the club a season ago. The southpaw will also be looking to rebound from his shortest outing of the season, which came on Saturday versus the Yankees. Romero allowed a career-high eight runs on seven hits and two walks in 2 2/3 innings of an 11-3 contest.
"I could tell that his changeup, he wasn't throwing it for strikes," Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said on his team's site. "He wasn't throwing his curveball for strikes and you saw that the location of his fastball was off, too. When you've got them all not working, you're going to have a problem."
The 25-year-old is 6-5 with a 3.39 ERA this year and 4-1 with a 1.45 ERA in seven starts at home.
Romero's night could be made easier if Toronto's bats stay hot. The Blue Jays lead the majors with 130 homers, 18 more than second-ranked Boston, and hit another five solo shots in yesterday's 8-1 victory over the Twins to give Toronto consecutive wins after losing three straight. The Blue Jays won back- to-back games for the first time since a three-game run from June 16-19.
Jose Bautista hit his major-league leading 23rd homer in the victory, while Lyle Overbay's 10th homer of the season gave Toronto a club-record eight players with double-digit home run totals before the All-Star break.