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Red Sox ready for challenge vs. ‘powerful’ Blue Jays

Sportsnaut
Apr 15, 2022; Toronto, Ontario, CAN;   Toronto Blue Jays designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (27) celebrates after hitting a home run as Oakland Athletics catcher Sean Murphy (12) adjusts his mask in the first inning at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

The Boston Red Sox open their first home series against an American League East opponent as the Toronto Blue Jays visit New England on Tuesday night.

Boston’s Nathan Eovaldi (1-0, 4.50 ERA) will make his third start of the season. The right-hander has thrown five innings in each of his first two starts, winning Wednesday at Detroit after striking out six and allowing just two earned runs on four hits.

The Red Sox, who fell 8-3 in Monday’s finale of a four-game set against Minnesota, went 10-9 last season against the Blue Jays.

“(They’re) one of the best teams in the big leagues, very powerful,” Boston manager Alex Cora said. “They have one of the best players in Vladdy (Vladimir Guerrero Jr.), but they were a really good team (last year) that kept getting better.”

After the upcoming three-game set, the division foes will play four more starting next Monday at Toronto.

Tuesday will mark Eovaldi’s ninth career start opposite Toronto. He is 1-2 with a 4.56 ERA and has 48 strikeouts in 49 1/3 innings against the Blue Jays after facing them twice in 2021.

Eovaldi pitched 6 2/3 shutout innings in a June 14 home start against Toronto last season but had a no-decision in an eventual 2-1 Boston win.

Toronto has alternated results over its last seven games. Sunday’s 4-3 win over Oakland was its second in three weekend matchups against the Athletics.

With Teoscar Hernandez (oblique) out, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. has performed well behind Guerrero in the batting order, collecting at least one hit in eight of 10 games this season. He was 2-for-3 Sunday.

“It’s a big responsibility hitting behind Vladdy, but it will be the same plan for me,” Gurriel said recently. “There’s no secret we have the best hitter in the league in Vlad. … I’m going to continue to be prepared for (intentional walks) because it’s going to happen again and again and again.”

This will mark Toronto’s first series without left-hander Hyun Jin Ryu, who was placed on the 10-day injured list Sunday with left forearm inflammation. Ryu lasted just four innings in his Saturday start against Oakland, which the Jays lost.

Right-hander Alek Manoah gave Toronto a boost with six innings of two-run ball Sunday.

“His last 10 starts, we’ve won every game,” Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said. “He just gives us a chance. Everybody feels it when he takes the mound.”

Blue Jays left-hander Yusei Kikuchi (0-1, 5.40) makes his second start after being charged with a loss at Yankee Stadium last Tuesday, allowing three runs (two earned) on five hits in 3 1/3 innings.

Kikuchi has allowed 10 hits and eight runs (seven earned) in two career starts against Boston, while going 0-1 with a 5.92 ERA.

For Boston, the series begins just a day after catcher Kevin Plawecki and two staff members tested positive for COVID-19. Connor Wong was recalled from Triple-A Worcester after Plawecki, who is vaccinated, landed on the COVID-19 injured list.

Cora previously said that the team would be without multiple unvaccinated players next week in Canada. Pitcher Tanner Houck, who is slated to start Thursday in Boston, confirmed that he is one of them.

“We knew it beforehand, so we’ll plan accordingly,” Cora said.

“I’m definitely bummed that I won’t be able to make that start,” Houck said, according to the Boston Globe. “But the starts that I am able to make, I plan on giving 100 percent for this team, if not more so.”

–Field Level Media