The Red Sox may very well miss out on the postseason this year. If they do happen to reach the playoffs, though, they very well may point to the seventh inning of Monday's 2-1 win over the New York Yankees as the turning point in their season.
Leading by two in the seventh, Jon Lester loaded the bases, but got Curtis Granderson swinging, then Daniel Bard came on and struck out both Derek Jeter and Nick Swisher to end the threat. After Mark Teixeira homered to cut the deficit to one in the eighth, the Yanks put two more runners on in the frame, only to see Johnathan Papelbon retire Austin Kearns to end that chance.
Papelbon put the tying run on base in the ninth, but ended up recording his 28th save of the season.
Jacoby Ellsbury tied a franchise-record with four stolen bases, while Lester (12-7) went 6 1/3 innings and limited New York to four hits and three walks and finished with six strikeouts in the win. The Red Sox split the four-game set and have won three of their last five to pull within six games of the top spot in the American League East.
"It's huge. Any win this time of the year is big for us," Lester said. "Obviously being here is a little more special, keep chipping away."
Getting the call for the Red Sox this evening will be Japanese righty Daisuke Matsuzaka, who has won his last three decisions. Matsuzaka beat the Cleveland Indians on Thursday, as he allowed a run and five hits in eight innings to run his record to 8-3, while lowering his earned run average to 3.96.
Matsuzaka has dominated the Blue Jays of late, winning his last six decisions against them and pitching to a 2.08 ERA in his last eight starts in this series.
Toronto, meanwhile, will counter with lefty Ricky Romero, who is 9-7 with a 3.37 ERA. Romero won for the third time in his last four starts with a brilliant complete-game effort last Tuesday against the Yankees that saw him surrender just two runs and two hits.
"Definitely feels good to be able to do this against this team and that lineup here at Yankee Stadium," Romero said after his gem. "It's definitely special."
The 25-year-old hurler lost to the Sox the last time he faced them and is 1-4 lifetime against Boston with an 8.76 ERA in six starts.
Romero, though, will have his work cut out for him if he intends on following up Brandon Morrow's masterpiece from Sunday. The hard-throwing righty came one out away from a no-hitter as he helped the Blue Jays take a 1-0 win over the Tampa Bay Rays to complete a three-game sweep.
With two outs and a man on first in the ninth, Evan Longoria hit a sharp grounder that went off the glove of a diving Aaron Hill in the hole between first and second base to spoil the no-hit bid. It left men at the corners, but Morrow struck out Dan Johnson with a high fastball to end the game.
Morrow (9-6) struck out a career-high 17 batters, which is the most by a pitcher this season, and also walked two while throwing 137 pitches, 97 for strikes.
"It's my first complete game and my first shutout," said Morrow. "Those things combined are more than enough to overcome the feelings of the missed no- hitter."
Vernon Wells drove in the lone run for the Blue Jays, who have won five of their last six. Wells, though, left after the sixth inning with a dislocated toe on his right foot that he suffered while making a leaping catch at the wall on a Ben Zobrist fly ball.
"If any pitcher ever deserved a no-hitter it was him," said Longoria. "He was making his pitches all day and we never had a chance. Every time we would get into a hitters count he would come back and make the perfect pitch."
Toronto has dropped seven of their nine games with the Red Sox this season.