Currently the owners of the longest losing streak in baseball at five games, the Sox hold only a 3 1/2 game edge over their AL East counterparts in the race for the wild card. They will play the Rays four times from Thursday to Sunday. With a 2-9 mark in its last 11 games, Boston needs a string of solid performances on the mound to prevent an epic collapse.
Knuckleballer Tim Wakefield will get the week started when he takes the bump on Tuesday against Toronto to begin the team's 10-game homestand. Wakefield (6-6) will be making his ninth attempt at career win No. 200 having not won a game since July 24. The 45-year-old's last four starts have not gone as planned as Wake has failed to get through six innings in any appearance.
John Lackey gets the call for Wednesday's matinee affair against the Jays, and his last few starts have not been pretty, either. Since defeating Texas on Aug. 23, Lackey (12-12) has lost his last three starts and was whacked for five earned runs in three inings of work on Friday against Tampa. His ERA on the season stands at 6.30.
Left-hander Andrew Miller will toe the rubber in Thursday's series opener against the Rays, and his most recent performances have not been encouraging. Since shutting out Texas on Aug. 25, Miller (6-3) was tagged for six runs in 1 1/3 innings against the Rangers on Sept. 2 and surrendered another five runs in his most recent start, a 7-4 loss to the Blue Jays on Sept. 8.
Rookie Kyle Weiland is slated to make his fifth career start on Friday against the Rays. The righty is hoping for a better performance than his last against Tampa Bay in which he got through only four innings, gave up three runs, six hits and three walks in a 6-5 setback on Saturday. Weiland (0-1) currently sports a 6.75 earned run average.
Boston's best hope for a victory may still rest with Jon Lester when he takes the mound on Saturday, but even he is coming off a shaky outing. Lester (15-7) was rocked for eight hits and four runs in only four innings of work against the Rays on Sunday. He is Boston's only healthy pitcher who was a member of the opening-week rotation.
Wakefield will again get the call Sunday in the finale of the four-game set with the Rays.