No team in baseball has been hotter since June 11 than the Toronto Blue Jays. That was only a little more than two weeks ago, but Toronto was eight games under .500 and 11 games behind the Red Sox in the AL East. There was talk the Jays might actually be sellers at the trade deadline. Forget that now.
Toronto started an 11-game winning streak June 11, including a very impressive four-game sweep at Texas — of the same Rangers team that swept three from Boston in Arlington. Yes, the Jays continue this weekend’s four-game set at Fenway Park having lost two of three at the Rays and the series opener Thursday, but their confidence is back, and they look like the contender everyone expected.
The pitching staff has been vastly better in June. It has a 2.57 ERA compared to 4.52 in April and 4.90 in May. The offense has done its part, as well. Adam Lind is hitting .345 with six homers and 19 RBIs this month and should be up for All-Star consideration. Edwin Encarnacion also has six homers and has driven in 17 runs. Jose Bautista is hitting just .182 but has 15 RBIs, which has prompted Blue Jays manager John Gibbons to move Bautista to the No. 2 hole in the batting order.
The Toronto lineup got stronger Wednesday with the return of star shortstop Jose Reyes. Reyes had been out since mid-April with an ankle injury and adds a different dimension at the leadoff spot. The switch-hitting shortstop is batting .357 with five steals and a homer in 11 games. Melky Cabrera had been hitting leadoff in Reyes’ absence, but was fifth in the lineup Wednesday.
The Blue Jays have skyrocketed to 7-1 to win the AL pennant, just behind Boston (13-2), and 14-1 to win the World Series. Even while struggling, Toronto has given Boston problems this year, with the Sox holding a 5-4 series edge. In the one trip to Fenway, Toronto took two of three from May 10-12. The AL East-leading Red Sox will be slight series favorites this time around (only first three games count on series line). Saturday’s game will have Live Betting.
Josh Johnson (1-2, 4.60) takes the mound for the Blue Jays on Friday. The former Marlin has a 3.44 ERA over his past three starts and got his first win last Sunday against Baltimore. Johnson faced Boston on April 5 and allowed four runs and nine hits over six innings in a no-decision. Shane Victorino is hitting .341 in 41 at-bats against Johnson.
Saturday, it’s Esmil Rogers (3-3, 3.46), who only recently has been in the rotation. In four relief appearances against the Sox this year, Rogers has a bloated 23.14 ERA and a loss over 2.1 innings. Mike Napoli is 2-for-4 with a homer and four RBIs off Rogers.
Mark Buehrle (4-5, 4.73) is scheduled Sunday. The lefty is 0-1 with a 3.95 ERA in two starts against Boston this season, allowing three homers.
This article is presented by Bovada.