Red Sox-Blue Jays Preview

Marco Estrada came to the AL East and immediately turned in the best season of his career. That effectiveness just didn't carry over into matchups with the Boston Red Sox.

The right-hander makes his season debut Sunday in Toronto hoping for better against the division foe as the Blue Jays try to avoid a three-game sweep.

Estrada missed the first week of the season with lower-back soreness, which limited him to two starts and 5 2-3 innings this spring with the big league club with his last work coming March 25. But the Blue Jays have plenty of confidence in the 32-year-old after he went 13-8 with a 3.13 ERA in 28 starts and six relief efforts last season. His 1.04 WHIP trailed only Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel in the AL.

That included 181 innings after never going beyond 150 2-3 in his time with Milwaukee or Washington, and it earned him a two-year, $26 million deal in the offseason.

The club deemed him ready to go after throwing five innings in an intrasquad contest Monday, allowing a run and three hits on 88 pitches.

"We just wanted to give him one more (outing since) he had a late start," manager John Gibbons told MLB's official website.

Estrada went 2-1 in three games against the Red Sox last year but had a 6.10 ERA, allowing 10 hits and nine walks in 10 1-3 innings. David Ortiz homered twice off him, but Xander Bogaerts and Brock Holt fell to 0 for 8 lifetime.

The Blue Jays (2-4) need Estrada in a big way considering David Price is now in the other dugout and they're already in danger of matching their season-worst five-game losing streak from last year, despite Jose Bautista hitting two homers in Saturday's 8-4 loss.

Boston (3-1) out-did Toronto with its fourth straight game of at least six runs and 10 hits. The Blue Jays are yet to reach that hit total and batting .220 a season after finishing second in baseball at .269.

Hanley Ramirez had a two-run triple and is 7 for 18 as he adjusts to playing first base, while Dustin Pedroia was 3 for 5 with two RBIs and is 6 for 15 since going hitless on opening day. Pedroia has reached base safely in 41 straight games against AL East opponents and 23 straight versus the Blue Jays.

Pablo Sandoval was the only Red Sox starter who didn't record a hit in his first start of the season. Manager John Farrell said lineup consistency has led to a sense of trust.

"No one feels like they've got to be the guy in a given inning," said Farrell, whose team is seeking its first sweep of the Blue Jays since June 10-12, 2011, in Toronto. "They pass the baton, get on base and I think that's one of the primary reasons we're scoring the number of runs that we are."

If there's one aspect for Boston to correct from its first four games, it's starting pitching. The rotation has an 8.53 ERA and has lasted just 19 innings while sticking the bullpen with 16, though the last 10 have been scoreless.

The Red Sox send Steven Wright (5-4, 4.09 ERA) to the mound for his season debut. The knuckleballer earned the No. 5 spot in the rotation with a 2.77 ERA in six spring outings.

His final three starts last year resulted in a 2-0 record and 2.25 ERA, but his season was cut short in August after being struck in the head by a batting-practice line drive.


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