Blue Jays-Red Sox Preview
While the Boston Red Sox are officially headed back to the postseason, they aren't satisfied just yet.
The Red Sox can clinch the AL East in Friday night's series opener against the visiting Toronto Blue Jays.
"We've still got some other goals ahead of us," Lackey said. "Hopefully, here in the next night or two we can get a party going."
Coming off a last-place finish in 2012, the Red Sox's magic number to clinch the division was later cut to one with Tampa Bay's loss to Texas. Boston can also clinch if the Rays lose to Baltimore on Friday.
"The next step is a more important one than this," manager John Farrell said. "Winning the East, that's been the stated goal since day one of spring training. That's getting closer and I think that will probably be a little bit more the realization of where we've come from and where we are at that moment."
Boston has to be feeling good about giving the ball to Jon Lester (14-8, 3.75 ERA), who is 4-1 with a 1.81 ERA in his last six outings and 6-2 since the All-Star break.
"It's not uncommon for power pitchers to really hit their stride in the second half of the season," Farrell told MLB's official website. "He's an example of that. His delivery becomes that much more efficient, and he repeats it more consistently. With that rhythm comes power, and that's what we've all seen in Jon over the course of the time here."
The left-hander allowed one run and three hits in eight innings to beat the New York Yankees 5-1 on Saturday, his eighth consecutive quality start.
"He's been doing great," teammate Mike Napoli said. "You can see he's confident out there. He's just getting the ball and throwing."
Lester has gone 3-0 with a 2.80 ERA in five starts versus Toronto this season, improving to 14-7 with a 3.64 ERA in his career against the Blue Jays. Adam Lind (3 for 29 with 12 strikeouts), Brett Lawrie (3 for 22), Jose Reyes (1 for 12) and J.P. Arencibia (8 for 41 with 16 strikeouts) have all struggled in their matchups.
Toronto (70-82) took two of three from the Yankees this week, winning 6-2 on Thursday. Anthony Gose went 3 for 4 with a home run and Lind added a three-run shot for his third homer in six games.
The Blue Jays now turn to Esmil Rogers (5-7, 4.47), who is 2-0 with a 2.32 ERA in his last five starts. After throwing 14 scoreless innings in winning back-to-back outings, the right-hander allowed three runs in six innings and didn't receive a decision in Saturday's 4-3 victory over Baltimore.
"I just think about giving the opportunity to win the game, and try to help the team," said Rogers, who matched a career high with seven strikeouts. "The only way you can get out people is when you make good pitches."
Rogers has posted a 0.75 ERA and struck out 12 in as many innings in two starts versus the Red Sox this year, both Blue Jays wins. Dustin Pedroia is 5 for 10 with two doubles against him.
Boston outfielder Shane Victorino missed Thursday's win with a jammed right thumb, leaving his status for Friday unclear. Victorino is hitting .359 with seven homers, 21 RBIs and 25 runs in his last 26 games.