The Boston Red Sox are hopeful that veteran Martin Perez can shake off a bothersome blister and continue his dominance of the Toronto Blue Jays when the two teams open a five-game series at Fenway Park on Thursday.
The two American League East rivals will meet for the final time this season. The Red Sox took two of three in their first meeting in Boston and the clubs split two games at Buffalo’s Sahlen Field.
Perez (2-4, 4.58 ERA) will face Toronto right-hander Taijuan Walker (3-2, 3.27 ERA) in Friday’s opener.
Perez was scheduled to start the final game of the series with Atlanta, but was pushed back a day because of a blister that caused him to struggle in his last start against Washington on Aug. 28. The blister developed over the first two innings and forced Perez to change his mechanics, particularly on the breaking ball, with unsatisfactory results. He allowed six runs on eight hits in four innings against the Nationals.
That was an oddity. Perez has pitched at least five innings in five of his seven starts and has lived up to his reputation as a workhorse.
“They signed me here for one reason,” Perez said. “That’s what I got, the mentality every five days to compete and do my job.”
He’s done very well against the Jays. Perez has made six previous career starts against Toronto, going 2-2 with a 2.36 ERA. He was 1-0 with a 0.69 ERA in two starts against the Blue Jays in 2019. He has not faced Toronto this season.
The Red Sox could use a lengthy start from Perez to help their struggling bullpen. The Boston bullpen has a 5.65 ERA (114 earned runs in 181 2/3 innings) this season.
Boston could have its hands full with Walker, who will make his second start as a Blue Jay. He earned a win with six scoreless innings against Baltimore on Aug. 29, thanks to a deadly fastball-changeup combination.
“I was able to turn my cutter into more of a true slider,” Walker said afterward. “I really worked hard with that. My curveball, too, just having more confidence in it. I’m able to throw it for strikes in any counts.”
In four starts in August, three of them before he was acquired from Seattle, Walker had allowed seven earned runs in 22 2/3 innings (2.78 ERA) with 20 strikeouts.
Walker has made only one appearance against Boston in his career. He received no decision on June 19, 2016, when he pitched five innings and did not allow a run while with the Mariners. He missed most of the 2018 and 2019 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery.
The Red Sox suffered a three-game sweep at the hands of the Atlanta Braves and have fallen into last place in the division. The Blue Jays have won six of 10 and snapped a two-game losing streak with a 2-1 win over Miami on Wednesday.
With their win, the Blue Jays improved to 10-7 in one-run games, the most in the majors this season. Toronto’s Teoscar Hernandez extended his career-long hitting streak to 14 games with a hit on Wednesday.
–Field Level Media