Red Sox on a roll ahead of huge three-game series in Toronto

BOSTON — The Red Sox have won seven straight, which is just a fraction of the ridiculous run they’ve had since mid-May. Boston’s 29-10 record over the past six weeks has catapulted the team into second place in the highly competitive AL East.

With the Yankees running away with the game’s best record, second place in the division will likely come down to a three-way battle between the Red Sox, Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays. The Red Sox hold a 1.5-game lead over those two division counterparts heading into Monday night, when Boston begins a three-game series north of the border in Toronto.

It’s a huge streak for Boston, as the Red Sox haven’t had the best of luck against the Jays recently. The Blue Jays have won three of four games against the Red Sox in Toronto in April and have won six of the last eight meetings at Rogers Center since last season. They also took two of three in Boston in April, bringing a 5-2 record against the Red Sox in this week’s series.

However, the two teams are very, very different from the last time they met. The Red Sox have won seven straight series, including four at Fenway Park. The Blue Jays have lost three straight series and are only 10-12 since winning eight in a row in late May.

Both teams bring spectacular offenses to the series. The Red Sox lead the AL with a .261 batting average, while the Jays are second at .255. Boston is first in the AL with 175 doubles, while Toronto is second with 137. The Jays have smashed 95 homers, good for third in the AL, while the Red Sox are ninth with 70 dingers.

The Boston pitcher has at least done well against most of Toronto’s big sticks. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is hitting just .211 against the Red Sox with just one extra hit and two RBIs in six games, while Bo Bichette is hitting .207 with seven strikeouts in 29 at-bats this season. George Springer had eight hits in 24 at-bats, but only one of those hits went for extra bases; a ninth-inning three-run homer two months ago in an eventual Jays win at Toronto.

The Red Sox are yet to leave the field against the Blue Jays this season. Rafael Devers, who leads the team with an average of .334, 25 doubles and 17 home runs, played just one inning against Toronto. The other two batsmen on the Boston roster are hitting the Blue Jays well this season, with Xander Bogaerts 13-for-26 and JD Martinez hitting .353, but they were only five runs against Toronto.

Here are the pitching matchups for this week’s three games in Toronto:

Monday, June 27: Connor Seabold (0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. Kevin Gausman (5-6, 3.19 ERA)
Tuesday, June 28: Michael Wacha (6-1, 2.34) vs. Ross Stripling (4-2, 3.08)
Wednesday, June 29: Nick Pivetta (8-5, 3.25) vs. Alek Monoah (9-2, 2.05)

The Red Sox will have a decision to make at the end of the games if they hold a lead. Closer Tanner Houck is not with the team due to his vaccination status, meaning Alex Cora will have to look to someone else to close out games over the next three nights. John Schreiber is the most likely candidate to receive this call, although he could be used in high pressure situations earlier in games. Matt Strahm and Hansel Robles could get the ball back in the ninth for Boston.

Boston will also be without outfielder Jarren Duran due to his vaccine status, leaving the Red Sox without one of the hottest bats on the roster. He’s been on fire since his recall earlier this month, hitting .333 with five doubles and eight runs scored in 12 games. Duran was huge out of first place in place of injured Enrique Hernandez, but now the Sox must fill another void at the top of their command.

But the Red Sox have loved that kind of adversity over the past six weeks and have passed every test thrown at them in the span. The three games in Toronto are an opportunity for Boston to show that they are indeed the second-best team in the crowded AL East and to exorcise some of their demons in Canada.

Brimming with confidence after the team’s three-game sweep against the Guardians, Cora said everyone was ready for the tough task ahead.

“Toronto is one of the big boys in the division,” the captain said Sunday. “They played well. It’s going to be a challenge, but we’re ready for it.”