It’s panic time for Red Sox Nation. Boston not only lost for the fifth time in seven games to fall 2 games behind the New York Yankees in the AL East race, but they also lost ace Josh Beckett to a sprained ankle in Monday’s gut-wrenching 1-0 loss in 11 innings. Jon Lester assumes the role of savior when Boston meets Toronto in the second of a four-game series at the Rogers Centre on Tuesday night. The Blue Jays, which just got swept by the Yankees over the weekend, will counter with Luis Perez in hopes of getting back to the .500 mark.
TV: 7:07 p.m. RSN, NESN
PITCHING MATCHUP: Red Sox LH Jon Lester (14-6, 3.05 EAR) vs. Blue Jays LH Luis Perez (3-2, 3.77 ERA).
Perez has done fairly well since moving into the starting rotation three outings ago. In that time he is 1-0 and has allowed seven runs in 17 innings. Perez was pulled from his last start after allowing five runs in five innings and throwing just 52 strikes in 93 pitches. Perez, who had spent the rest of the season in the bullpen, has surrendered seven runs in eight innings against the Red Sox in his career but he has fanned nine batters.
Lester is 2-0 in four starts against Toronto this season. The solid-hitting Blue Jays are batting just .183 on the season against the Boston lefty. Lester is 9-4 against Toronto in his career and has won his three decisions, allowing just 16 hits in his last 24 innings while fanning 21. The last time he faced Toronto, Lester pitched four hitless innings before leaving with a strained muscle in his left side.
ABOUT THE RED SOX (84-56): Boston faces its biggest deficit in the standings since July 2 and will hold its breath until they get word on the health of Beckett. The Red Sox are too good of a hitting team to go 11 innings without a run again, so you would figure the offense will come alive soon. With a big series at Tampa Bay at the end of the week, it better be soon. Boston is still comfortably ahead in the wild-card standings so it is highly unlikely it will miss the playoffs, but it could lose any chance of AL East pennant and home-field advantage in the playoffs if things don’t turn around soon. Aside from Beckett, Erik Bedard will miss his next start with a sore knee.
ABOUT THE BLUE JAYS (70-71): Rookie Brett Lawrie belted a home run with two outs in the 11th to end Monday’s game. The Blue Jays are 5-8 against Boston this season and the two teams have split six games at the Rogers Centre. Toronto was 3-7 without manager John Farrell, who rejoined the team on Monday after a bout with pneumonia. Righthander Dustin McGowan also returned to the team after a prolonged spell on the disabled list following shoulder surgeries. Jose Bautista, who leads the majors with 40 homers, went 0-for-4 on Monday.
FINAL PITCH: Beckett is headed back to Boston to be examined. He said the ankle felt like it was popping in and out of the socket. “It’s always concerning. That’s my power leg. With the way I pitch, if you cut my leg off, I don’t think I can pitch. It’s pretty bad timing. But I could be back out there in six days. We’ll see. Let’s not put the cart in front of the horse. Let’s do our due diligence,” he said.