Red Sox-Blue Jays Preview
TORONTO -- The Toronto Blue Jays feel that they received a jolt of energy from a players-only team meeting before their game Saturday against the Boston Red Sox.
Toronto posted a 3-2 victory to gain a split in the first two contests of the key three-game series between the two top teams in the American League East.
The Blue Jays moved back to within one game of the Red Sox in the division.
The real test will come Sunday in the rubber match of the series and it will take a strong start by Aaron Sanchez, who is second in ERA in the AL, to pull the Blue Jays even in the East.
He will be opposed by Boston starter Clay Buchholz, who is 11-3 with a 2.18 earned-run average in 16 games - including 15 starts - at Rogers Centre.
The Blue Jays had a good start from J.A. Happ, supported by strong relief pitching Saturday in the win over the Red Sox to stop a four-game losing streak.
"We had better energy than we've had in a while today," Happ said. "I think we had a general good feeling about it so it was a fun game. From first pitch to last, it seemed like our dugout was really into this one."
As for the meeting itself, Happ said: "It was overwhelmingly positive. It ended on a very good note. I feel like that translated into the game. So just keep moving forward. You're trying to bring that energy and the enthusiasm and put up zeroes all the time but maybe there was a little bit extra (after the meeting), I'm not sure.
"Judging from how the game went and the feeling here, I think everything was a positive from it."
Despite the loss, the Red Sox are 18-10 in their past 28 games, second to the New York Yankees (19-9) in that span. The Blue Jays are 14-14 in their past 28 games, spinning their wheels.
Both teams have struggled in one-run games this season.
The Red Sox are 16-21 in those close encounters and the Blue Jays are 16-23.
The Red Sox are 5-3 with one contest left on a nine-game trip and all three losses have been by one run. They won the series opener 13-3 on Friday.
Jackie Bradley Jr. does not feel Boston plays differently in close games.
"I don't think so," he said. "Hitting is contagious so when we're winning the blowout games it keeps coming but that's not going to happen every day. You have to find a way to win whether it's a close game or a high-scoring game."
"Many, many times we've shown the ability to put up a quality offensive game," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "He shut us down today. We were a swing of the bat away. Unfortunately they made a couple of key pitches."
In two starts against the Red Sox this season, Sanchez is 1-0 with a 2.63 ERA. He is 3-1 with a 2.70 ERA in 12 career games, including four starts, against Boston.
Buchholz, who has been switching between the bullpen and starting rotation, is 2-0 with a 2.31 ERA in his past four starts.
He has not allowed a run in 8 2/3 innings in three appearances against the Blue Jays this season. In his one start this season against Toronto, he allowed six hits in 6 2/3 innings. He is 14-9 with a 3.24 ERA in 31 career games, including 28 starts, against the Blue Jays.