Red Sox have sights set on AL East title in opener vs. Jays

Now that the Boston Red Sox have secured a spot in the postseason, they can turn their attention toward winning the American League East.

The Red Sox can nail down their first division title since 2007 with a win on Friday when they start a three-game series with the Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park.

One year removed from losing 93 games and finishing last in the division, Boston locked up its first postseason berth since 2009 on Thursday, as John Lackey threw a two-hitter in the Red Sox' 3-1 win over Baltimore.

Lackey (10-12) carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning before giving up a long home run to Adam Jones. Undeterred, he surrendered only one other hit, a single, and struck out eight for his first complete game win since 2009.

"I mean, it's nice to be a part of going to the playoffs," said Lackey. "There was a lot of hard work getting back to this point, for sure. To be back here and be pitching well again and being healthy, it's been fun."

Boston's magic number for winning the AL East was trimmed to one when Texas beat Tampa Bay. So, the Red Sox will claim the division on Friday with either a win or a Tampa loss to Baltimore.

"The next step is a more important one than this," Boston manager John Farrell said. "Winning the East, that's been the stated goal since day one of spring training. That's getting closer and I think that will probably be a little bit more the realization of where we've come from and where we are at that moment."

The Red Sox have to like their chances on Friday, as they rely on left-hander Jon Lester, who is 4-1 with a 1.81 ERA in his last six outings and 6-2 since the All-Star break. He's also 6-1 with a 3.25 ERA at Fenway this season.

Lester beat the New York Yankees on Saturday, limiting them to a run and three hits over eight innings to run his record to 14-8 to go along with a 3.75 ERA.

"It's more about him having confidence in his pitches," Farrell said after the start. "That's what reduces the frustration with him and allows him to not carry the previous pitch into the next one, and that frustration is eliminated. That's where he's been for pretty much the whole year, with the exception of that month stretch where things were hit and miss for him."

In five starts against the Blue Jays this season, Lester is 3-0 with a 2.80 ERA.

Toronto, meanwhile, may have dealt a death knell to the New York Yankees postseason hopes this week, as it took two of three from them, including a 6-2 win on Thursday. Anthony Gose and Adam Lind belted homers to back seven strong innings from Todd Redmond in that one.

"He competes, he doesn't give in, nothing rattles him," Jays manager John Gibbons said of Redmond.

Now, the Jays turn to righty Esmil Rogers, who is 2-0 with a 2.32 ERA in his last five starts. Rogers did not get a decision on Saturday against Baltimore, as he allowed three runs and five hits in six innings of a 4-3 win.

"I just think about giving the opportunity to win the game and try to help the team," Rogers said. "I know they are good hitters, but if you make a good pitch, you're going to be better than them. The only way you can get out people is when you make good pitches."

He is 5-7 on the year with a 4.47 ERA.

Boston is 9-7 versus the Jays this season.