The Red Sox are headed up north to face off against the Toronto Blue Jays, hoping to start off June by escaping the AL East basement that they've inhabited for so long.
Though May did not end as planned, with Josh Beckett and the bullpen allowing Detroit to avoid the sweep, and in the end the Sox would finish just one game over .500 on the month, nobody can say it wasn't a big month for the Red Sox. Where June had seen the Sox provide streaks of success and failure in equal number, May saw their first truly sustained run of success. After a terrible 1-8 start to the season against the likes of the Athletics, Royals, and Mariners, Boston would win 14 of their next 19 game, leaving them looking like a legitimate ball club for the first time this season.
Now they'll have to keep it going in a six game run against the Blue Jays and Orioles that could completely change their position relative to the rest of the division--be it for better or for worse.
Boston Red Sox (26-25) vs. Toronto Blue Jays (27-24)
Friday, June 1, 7:07 p.m. EST
NESN/MLB Network, WEEI
Clay Buchholz (4-2, 7.19 ERA) vs. Henderson Alvarez (3-4, 3.56 ERA)
Once again, tasked with holding down the Tampa Bay Rays, Clay Buchholz came through with aplomb. He's been awful this year, of that there's no doubt, but twice in the last three games he's performed. The question is did he perform both times because he can beat the Rays, or because he's getting better? A good performance tonight would go a long way towards answering that question.
At 22-years-old, Henderson Alvarez will take a 3.56 ERA anyway he can get it. But striking out all of 2.19 batters per nine innings just is not going to last him. It did in his first appearance against the Red Sox back in April, but of late the runs have started piling up, with 10 earned coming across in two outings against the Mets and Rangers. The Sox should be able to join the club the way they're running right now.
Saturday, June 2, 1:07 p.m. EST
NESN/MLB Network, WEEI
Felix Doubront (5-2, 3.86 ERA) vs. Kyle Drabek (4-5, 4.55 ERA)
Felix Doubront continues to give the Red Sox the best performances of any member of their rotation, and really should have had a better night than he did against Detroit, who seemed to do maximum damage against the few mistake pitches he made. Doubront was the author of Boston's first win of the season against Toronto way back on April 9. Since then, he's just gotten better, so it will be interesting to see how he deals with the Blue Jays this time around.
The Texas Rangers made Kyle Drabek feel the cruel sting of regression in his last outing, scoring nine runs off him in three innings. That's the sort of thing that happens when a good hitting team takes on a guy who gives up a lot of contact, even when it does come on the ground. The Sox stand a decent chance of joining them if they can just take their time against Drabek, who relies on getting ahead of batters and then going outside the zone once they're under pressure of an 0-1 count.
Sunday, June 3, 1:07 p.m. EST
Daniel Bard (5-5, 4.56 ERA) vs. Drew Hutchison (4-2, 4.84 ERA)
Daniel Bard again managed to avoid too much damage in his last outing, and even picked up more strikeouts (4) than walks (2) for the first time in all of May in his last outing, but he still didn't look very good. The Sox need Bard to start finding the zone with his fastball again, especially now that his slider seems to be losing effectiveness as batters recognize his weakness with the heater.
Because everything is apparently upside-down in Toronto, the player with the profile most typical of a successful starter is also the one not performing all that well. Perhaps that can be explained by his rather limited repertoire. Relying heavily on a 91 MPH heater, Hutchison needs to be nearly perfect in placement to see results in the major leagues until he can better incorporate his slider and changeup.