Red Sox try for emphatic sweep of Blue Jays

BOSTON — The Red Sox appear to be getting hot again.

After starting the season on a 17-2 run, Boston slowed down, allowing the New York Yankees to catch them in the American League East.

But the Red Sox are 4-1 on the homestand that ends with a Wednesday matinee at Fenway Park against the floundering Toronto Blue Jays.

The Red Sox (38-17) have won the first two games of the series and send Eduardo Rodriguez out to face Sam Gaviglio in Game 3. Boston is 6-2 against Toronto this season and has scored 16 runs in the last two games and 31 on the homestand.

“We believe — we’re good right now don’t get me wrong — but we feel that there’s room to improve,” Boston manager Alex Cora said after Tuesday night’s second straight 8-3 victory over the Jays. “When those guys get hot, it’s fun right now, so I can’t wait for that.”

The Red Sox maintained their two-game lead over the New York Yankees in the American League East.

Rodriguez (5-1, 4.02 ERA) has pitched to a 2.11 ERA over his last four games with batters going 3-for-18 with runners in scoring position over that span. He is 2-3 with a 5.44 ERA in nine games (eight starts) against Toronto in his career.

Gaviglio has emerged as a bit of a bright spot for the Blue Jays, who started the season by going 12-5 but have posted a 13-25 record since.

The right-hander has followed two relief outings — one a three-inning outing against Boston that ended with a win — with a pair of solid starts. Overall, he is 2-0 with a 2.30 ERA and has worked 11 1/3 innings yielding three runs on nine hits while striking out 12.

Sandy Leon ripped two doubles and a home run, Xander Bogaerts also homered and Rick Porcello won his seventh of the season for the Red Sox on Tuesday night.

By winning 38 of their first 55 games, the Red Sox matched the starts of 2016 Chicago Cubs and 2017 Houston Astros. Both went on to win the World Series.

Neither the Jays nor Red Sox are likely to get key injured players back for the series finale.

For the Jays, Josh Donaldson, nursing calf soreness that forced him out of Monday night’s game, is hoping to return Friday night.

“Feeling better,” Gibbons said before Tuesday night’s game. “Definitely not (playing) today. Hopefully get him through the off-day and good to go Friday. Probably surprisingly better, plus we need him. One of those things you don’t want it to get worse. You deal with it. You always do (fear the worst) but good news though.”

Mookie Betts missed his third straight game for Boston with left side tightness and the hope appears to be that he’ll play in Houston Thursday night.

“He went out, he ran, but we’re staying away from him today,” Cora said before Tuesday’s game. “Most likely tomorrow, too, with the day game, but he’s doing better. As you guys know, it’s an area that you have to make sure he’s ready to roll. But he’s doing more stuff today.

“He was in the gym and he moved around, so we feel comfortable. If these games were in September, he’d be playing, but we’ve got to be smart about it.”

The Jays are looking to salvage a game in the series.

“We’re definitely scuffling. I feel like we’re missing half the team,” Russell Martin said. “(Manager John Gibbons) is doing what he can to put a lineup out there but we have what we have. We’re going to fight. We definitely have what it takes to win games, just other teams are playing better than us right now.”

Donaldson sitting against Rodriguez is not the worst thing for him and the Jays. He is 1-for-16 with six strikeouts and five walks lifetime against the left-hander. Devon Travis is 3-for-10 against him.

The current Red Sox are a combined 2-for-16 with six strikeouts against Gaviglio.