The American League East stands as the only division in baseball where every team is now playing at least .500 ball and the Toronto Blue Jays hope to keep it that way as they close out a four-game set against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park.
Toronto, which was just 10-21 in early May, has battled all the way back to an even 40-40, thanks in part to a 6-2 victory against the Red Sox on Saturday.
Tied at 2-2 heading into the eighth inning, Toronto came up with two runs in each of the final two frames in order to capture the road win. Jose Bautista tallied a pair of home runs for the visitors, giving him 18 on the season, knocking in three runs overall. Adam Lind accounted for three hits and Jose Reyes two more, the latter scoring twice as well.
Not only did Bautista reach 201 home runs for his career with his offensive effort, he also threw out Shane Victorino at home in the sixth inning which gives manager John Gibbons reason to think his star is coming around.
"That's who he is," manager John Gibbons said. "He's been cold over the last few weeks. He's got some big hits along the way, some big home runs. But that's a good sign today. Maybe that will get him going consistently, and that's going to make us better."
Jays starter Esmil Rogers pitched six shutout innings, allowing six hits and a walk while striking out six, but he didn't factor into the decision. Instead it was Steve Delabar who registered his fifth win of 2013 as he struck out four in 1 2/3 innings.
Like Rogers, Boston starter Felix Doubront didn't figure into the decision either after permitting two runs on five hits and three walks in 6 1/3. Doubront, who fanned six, gave way to Alex Wilson who was followed by Junichi Tazawa. Pitching just one inning, Tazawa was saddled with his third loss of the season as he permitting two runs on three hits.
The first three batters in the Boston order each had two hits, with Victorino plating two in the losing effort. Despite the defeat, the first in five games, the Red Sox are still an impressive 27-16 at home and lead the AL East by 2 1/2 games over a surging Baltimore squad.
On with his third team in as many seasons, Mark Buehrle is set to face off against the Red Sox this afternoon in the series finale. Originally drafted by the Chicago White Sox in 1998, the left-hander was with Chicago in 2011 before heading to Miami a year later and then Canada.
Buehrle is a game under .500 on the season, but before losing his most recent outing on Tuesday he had won back-to-back contests versus Colorado and Texas. Five days ago the Missouri native was knocked around a bit by Tampa Bay on the road, allowing the Rays to score four runs on eight hits and four walks over five innings of action.
Against Boston at home last month, Buehrle surrendered five runs on seven hits -- three home runs -- and three walks, while striking out just a single batter in 6 2/3 innings. With that loss, a 10-1 decision, Buehrle dropped to 6-9 all- time, with a 4.57 ERA in 20 starts versus the Sox.
As for Boston, it has Ryan Dempster preparing to counter Buehrle on the hill. Also playing for his third team in as many seasons (Chicago Cubs and Texas), Dempster recently snapped a two-game slide as the Sox posted an 11-4 decision versus Colorado on Tuesday.
Against the Rockies, Dempster allowed just two runs on six hits and a couple of walks, fanning four, through six innings of action. The right-hander gave up yet another home run though, his 17th of the campaign, for the sixth straight outing.
Back on May 12 Dempster was knocked around significantly by Toronto as the Jays rocketed three home runs and scored a total of six times on seven hits over five innings. With that loss, Dempster fell to 1-1 with a 5.47 ERA in five all-time appearances versus Toronto.
Toronto, which still trails the season series by a 7-5 count, remains in last place in the division but is only 7 1/2 games behind the Sox entering play on Sunday.