Red Sox-Blue Jays Preview

While Dustin Pedroia is progressing in his attempt to return

from injury, the Boston Red Sox are showing they can manage just

fine without him.

With their second baseman likely out again, the surging Red Sox

seek their fourth sweep in the last nine road series against the

Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday.

Pedroia hasn’t played since Monday because of a torn muscle in

his right thumb, but he swung a bat for the first time since

suffering that injury before Saturday’s game.

The three-time All-Star and 2008 AL MVP, who is batting .295, is

not expected to return until Tuesday at the earliest and hoping to

avoid a stint on the disabled list.

“The decision hasn’t been made. We’re going to see how he gets

through the weekend,” manager Bobby Valentine told the team’s

website about the chances of sending Pedroia to the DL.

Valentine’s team is 4-1 during Pedroia’s absence and has batted

.306 while generating 29 runs. His replacement in the lineup, Nick

Punto, finished a triple shy of the cycle and had two RBIs in a 7-4

victory Saturday.

Daniel Nava followed up his first four-hit effort from Friday’s

win with a two-run single.

Those victories are among the 16 in the past 22 games for

Boston, which is a season-high three games above .500 at 28-25.

“We’re playing good baseball and for me to get in there and

contribute a little bit felt great,” Punto said. “I’ve been

telling him ‘You’d better hurry up or I’m going to get you.’ We

have a good time.”

The Blue Jays, meanwhile, have lost seven of 10, and eight of

their past 10 runs have been generated by solo homers.

Jose Bautista and Jeff Mathis homered in Saturday’s game while

Kelly Johnson had an RBI single as Toronto (27-26) fell behind

Boston and into last place in the AL East.

“(Fifth place) is just a number,” third baseman Brett Lawrie

said. “We’re not out by 10 games. A lot of baseball to be played

still, can’t worry about the numbers right now.”

Drew Hutchison (4-2, 4.84 ERA) will try to help his team bounce

back by building on the best outing of his rookie campaign. The

right-hander scattered three hits and three walks over seven

scoreless innings of a 6-2 home win over Baltimore on Monday.

He also struck out a career-best nine while bouncing back from a

miserable start in Tampa Bay in which he was tagged for six runs

over four innings.

Hutchison, who has never faced the Red Sox, has three wins in

his last four starts and allowed one or no runs in each of those

victories. His counterpart in Sunday’s game, Daniel Bard (5-5,

4.56) is also 3-1 over his last four outings and has given up two

runs or fewer in each win.

Bard gave up two runs and five hits over 5 1-3 innings for the

second straight start Tuesday during a 6-3 win over Detroit.

The right-hander lost in his only start against the Blue Jays on

April 10, his season debut. He allowed five runs and eight hits

over five innings during that 7-3 defeat in Toronto.