The Boston Red Sox and the visiting Toronto Blue Jays play the rubber match of a three-game series between two struggling teams Sunday afternoon.
The Blue Jays gained a split of the first two games with a 2-1 victory Saturday night. They had lost two in a row, while the Red Sox had won their two previous games. Each team has won five games this season, tied for lowest among American League clubs.
The Red Sox had considered going with an opener Sunday to start a bullpen game, but instead right-hander Nathan Eovaldi (1-1, 3.94 ERA) will make his third start this season.
Eovaldi will start on regular rest. In six career games (five starts) against Toronto, he is 1-1 with a 4.22 ERA, but had a 7.71 ERA over two starts against the Blue Jays last season.
“We know somewhere down the line we have to have a couple really good series to bounce back and get to a place where we can feel comfortable,” Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke said. “But we know somewhere in here we have to play better and have a couple really nice series.”
Toronto right-hander Matt Shoemaker (0-1, 5.91) will make his third start of the season. In four career appearances against Boston (three starts), he is 3-1 with a 3.00 ERA. He won last season at Fenway Park, on April 9, allowing four runs (two earned) in 5 2/3 innings.
The Red Sox made an anticipated lineup change Saturday, moving Alex Verdugo into the leadoff spot in place of struggling Andrew Benintendi, who was moved to seventh in the order.
“(Verdugo) is a guy that we have talked about for a week at least, trying to figure out where he fits in the lineup,” Roenicke said. “There’s a lot of different spots. When he’s hitting well, he can hit first, second or third (or) sixth, seventh, eighth or ninth. There’s a lot of spots, and we think he’s getting to that point where he’s swinging well enough and is confident enough. In the leadoff spot, we know how important that is.”
Verdugo had an infield single in four at-bats Saturday. Benintendi hit into a double play in his only at-bat Saturday before Kevin Pillar pinch hit for him in the fourth when Toronto brought in left-hander Anthony Kay.
Toronto has been hurting itself with poor fundamentals on the bases. The Blue Jays made three base-running blunders in the 5-3 loss on Friday and at least one more on Saturday when Rowdy Tellez was out on a pickoff/caught stealing in the fourth inning. Toronto also had a runner thrown out at home.
“We can not make the mistakes we made (on Friday), even more so when you’re playing in close games and not really swinging the bats,” Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said. “It’s player development in the big leagues.”
Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who had trouble on foul balls while playing first base on Friday, was designated hitter on Saturday and Tellez played first.
Guerrero was not charged with an error on his misplays, Friday, so Toronto entered Saturday on a 10-game errorless streak. That ended in the sixth inning when shortstop Bo Bichette made a throwing error. Second baseman Cavan Biggio had a grounder go between his legs in the seventh for Toronto’s second error of the game.
Until Saturday, Toronto’s only error had been made by Bichette in the season-opener.
The errorless stretch was Toronto’s longest since an 11-game streak in August 2015.
–Field Level Media