Red Sox-Blue Jays Preview

After winning nine of 14 to open the season and lead the AL East, the Boston Red Sox find themselves right back where 2014 ended.

In sole possession of last place.

Clay Buchholz and the rest of the starting staff have probably been most deserving of blame, and the right-hander will try to get the Red Sox back on track Sunday in Toronto. The problem is his awful numbers from his first six starts look a whole lot like his last six against the hot-hitting Blue Jays.

After Saturday's 7-1 win, Toronto (16-15) has outscored Boston 14-1 in the first two of this three-game series and won seven of 10 in Toronto against the Red Sox (13-17).

The Blue Jays have won seven of 11, while Boston has followed a decent start by going 4-12 with a 5.87 ERA from the rotation and is in danger of losing a fifth straight on the road.

Buchholz (1-4, 6.03 ERA) showed no signs of improvement in Monday's 5-1 loss to Tampa Bay, surrendering five runs and nine hits in 6 1-3 innings. He struck out seven, but his AL-leading rate of 11.49 strikeouts per nine innings is doing him little good.

"Ideally you'd like to keep the game under control from the outset," manager John Farrell told MLB's official website. "And that's not just with Clay, that's with everyone. We can't think that going into every game we're going to put up seven or eight runs. That doesn't happen in this league. It is on our starting pitchers to create some stability."

In his last six starts against Toronto, Buchholz is 1-4 with a 6.55 ERA. He took the decision in an 11-8 home loss to the Blue Jays on April 28 after allowing five runs and six hits in 2 2-3 innings.

Russell Martin is 5 for 16 with four home runs off Buchholz, Ryan Goins is 7 for 14 and Edwin Encarnacion is 4 for 9 with two homers since the start of last season.

Martin has keyed the lineup's recent success, going 15 for 27 with four home runs and four doubles on a seven-game hitting streak. In that same span, the Blue Jays are batting .306 and scoring 6.1 runs per game.

Josh Donaldson was 3 for 5 on Saturday and is batting .403 in his first 15 home games with Toronto. Encarnacion ended a 16-game homer drought with a three-run shot and is batting .357 with 10 RBIs in 11 games after hitting .173 through his first 20.

"Hopefully that's the start of something big for him," manager John Gibbons said.

The offense bodes well for R.A. Dickey, who is seeking consecutive wins after going 0-2 with a 7.23 ERA in his final three starts of April. Dickey (1-3, 4.38) held the New York Yankees to a run and three hits in eight innings of Monday's 3-1 home win.

The right-hander, who has a 2.72 ERA over his last eight home starts, was 4-0 with a 2.23 ERA against the Red Sox last year before allowing all of their runs in seven innings of a 4-1 loss April 29 in Boston.

Pablo Sandoval (3 for 16) has struggled against the knuckleballer, but Xander Bogaerts is 7 for 14 and David Ortiz is 8 for 21 with two home runs.

The lineup as a whole has slumped through a 1-7 May, batting .200 with 16 runs, but it could have Shane Victorino (hamstring) back for the series finale. However, the right fielder is batting .143 in 12 games.

The latest letdown prompted a team meeting.

"We had a little talk," Ortiz said. "Hopefully things change."

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