Red Sox-Blue Jays Preview

The Boston Red Sox’s offense ranked among the worst in the AL last season, contributing to a second last-place finish in three years.

And while the lineup again isn’t producing as expected, Boston’s starting rotation hasn’t provide much help, either.

After firing their pitching coach, the Red Sox look to avoid a sixth defeat in seven games Friday night as they begin a three-game road series against the Toronto Blue Jays, who also have struggled on the mound.

Boston (13-15) has been outscored 25-15 over its last six and went 2 for 28 with runners in scoring position while dropping two of three to Tampa Bay. David Ortiz had his eight-game hitting streak end in Wednesday’s 5-3 defeat, and Mike Napoli’s average over his last eight stands at .133 after he went 1 for 4.

The Red Sox’s .214 average over their last six dropped it to .239 on the season, one year after finishing 13th in the AL with a .244 mark.

"Maybe we just need to back off a little bit and stop trying so hard. I don’t know," Napoli said. "(The numbers are) there in front of us. We’re seeing it. We’re living it. Just have to go out there and get the job done."

Boston’s consistent inability to score only provides more problems with the rotation giving up runs at an alarming rate. The starters rank among the worst in the majors with a 5.54 ERA, and the Red Sox on Thursday decided they’d seen enough, firing pitching coach Juan Nieves.

Wade Miley (1-3, 7.15 ERA) has contributed to the staff’s woes by allowing at least six earned runs twice. He’s also walked 11 in 22 2-3 innings, but is coming off his best outing after giving up three runs in seven innings and not issuing a free pass in Saturday’s 4-2 loss to the New York Yankees.

"Instead of trying to make too good of a pitch, 3-1, 3-0, I just needed to execute a pitch and get a ground-ball out rather than walk a guy," Miley said.

The left-hander also didn’t have his best stuff in his only start against the Blue Jays (14-15) while with Arizona on Sept. 3, 2013. Miley allowed five runs, eight hits and walked two over 1 2-3 innings in the shortest start of his career, taking a 10-4 loss.

Walks have been a big problem as well for Aaron Sanchez, who issued six – the second time in three starts he walked at least that many – while giving up two runs in 5 2-3 innings of an 11-4 win over Cleveland on Saturday.

The right-hander’s 108 pitches followed a 107-pitch outing against the Red Sox on April 27, when he walked two and gave up four runs in 5 2-3 innings before Mookie Betts’ RBI single in the bottom of the ninth gave Boston a 6-5 win.

Sanchez (2-2, 4.62) ranks among the worst in baseball with an average of 17.7 pitches per inning.

"These last few starts, he’s been pretty effective but he’s walked a lot of guys too," manager John Gibbons said. "Over time, that’s not going to work, so he’s got to get in the zone better."

Blue Jays starters have a 5.40 ERA, which ranks near the bottom of the majors. Mark Buehrle pitched five solid innings Wednesday, though, helping Toronto beat the Yankees 5-1.

Russell Martin homered for the fourth time in five games and Chris Colabello had four hits. Colabello, called up from the minors on Tuesday, went 6 for 8 with two doubles in the final two games of the series.

The Red Sox took two of three from the Blue Jays at Fenway Park from April 27-29.