Jays avoid Sale, face Fister in series finale vs. Red Sox (Jul 20, 2017)

BY AP • July 20, 2017

BOSTON -- The struggling Toronto Blue Jays may well have dodged a bullet when the Boston Red Sox announced this week that ace Chris Sale was not going to pitch the series finale Thursday.

Because Doug Fister had to work in relief during a 16-inning loss to the New York Yankees last Saturday, the Red Sox shuffled their pitchers. They brought Brian Johnson up to pitch Tuesday night, moved Fister from Tuesday to Sunday and Sale from Thursday to Friday, when Boston opens a road trip against the Angels in Anaheim.

Sale has faced the Blue Jays twice this season, allowing no runs and just eight hits, with two walks and 24 strikeouts. That raised his career record against Toronto to 5-2 with a 1.68 ERA (he is 5-0 with a 1.39 ERA against the Angels).

Anyway, Thursday's matinee belongs to Fister, who has appeared four times in a Red Sox uniform and gone 0-3 with a 6.75 ERA. He will face Francisco Liriano, who left his last start with neck stiffness but passed all tests during the week and was pronounced ready to go for Thursday on his regular day.

"He threw a bullpen and felt really good, so that's great news," Toronto manager John Gibbons said Tuesday before officially naming Liriano on Wednesday.

Liriano is 1-1 against the Red Sox this season and 4-4 with a 5.44 ERA in eight career starts against Boston. He will try to get the last-place Blue Jays a split of the four-game series and a 3-4 record on a trip that moves on to Cleveland for the weekend.

Fister has also made eight starts against Toronto, going 2-2 with a 3.69 ERA.

On Thursday, he hopes to follow the lead of Johnson and Drew Pomeranz, who gave the Red Sox strong starts in wins Tuesday and Wednesday after a Monday night loss.

The Red Sox have played 67 innings in six games over five days and seem to be enjoying it.

"I think the number of innings, hours we've played, has been a little bit of a rallying point," Boston manager John Farrell said Wednesday after a 5-1 victory. "Our roster is out of balance with extra pitchers; we're able to rotate guys through. We're going to have a little different look tomorrow, just to maybe conserve physically with some guys.

"It's been, no matter how long, or how many innings it's going to take, we'll play it right through to the end. Tonight, the fact that it's less than three hours, it felt like it was halftime. This was a good win tonight."

Dustin Pedroia, who has been on fire, especially with two outs and runners in scoring position, is 7-for-17 (.412) lifetime against Liriano. Hanley Ramirez weighs in at 3-for-8 (.375). Chris Young is 2-for-9 (.222) and Mitch Moreland's only hit in five at-bats against the left-hander was a home run.

Jose Bautista is 7-for-17 (.412), Josh Donaldson 4-for-6 (.667) and Kendrys Morales 8-for-25 (.320) with three homers and five RBIs against Fister. Russell Martin is 1-for-9 (.111), Ezequiel Carrera 2-for-9 (.222) and Justin Smoak 3-for-15 (.200) against the veteran right-hander.

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