Red Sox-Blue Jays Preview

The Toronto Blue Jays enter their final homestand with a prime opportunity to extend their division lead as they seek their first AL East title since the early 1990s.

Marcus Stroman was two years old the last time the Blue Jays hung a banner, and to him it's seemed as though just as much time has passed since he took the Rogers Centre mound.

He'll look to remain unbeaten against the Boston Red Sox as Toronto plays the first of nine straight at home Friday night.

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The Blue Jays (84-62) hold a 3 1/2-game lead over the New York Yankees atop the East after MVP candidate Josh Donaldson, Edwin Encarnacion and Cliff Pennington homered in Thursday's 5-0 win over Atlanta that completed a 10-game trip.

Toronto will play three each against the Red Sox (69-76), Yankees and Tampa Bay to finish its home slate before a seven-game road swing to close the regular season.

The Blue Jays are 19-5 at home since July 29 and have a magic number of nine to clinch their first division title since the last of three straight in 1993, when they went on to win a second consecutive World Series in their most recent playoff appearance.

Stroman is excited he's finally getting a chance to help end that postseason drought. He tore his left ACL during a fielding drill in March and didn't make his season debut until Saturday after 20 starts and six relief efforts as a rookie in 2014.

The 24-year-old right-hander appeared fully recovered, though, pitching four no-hit innings before allowing a three-run homer in the fifth and being removed following a rain delay in a 10-7 road win at Yankee Stadium.

"Unbelievable," Stroman said. "The vibes, the camaraderie in the clubhouse couldn't be any better. It's only going to get better from here. Really pleased."

He's felt that way after each of his outings against Boston, too, winning all three with a 1.25 ERA. Two of those victories came at Rogers Centre, where Stroman is 7-2 with a 1.98 ERA and .196 opponents' batting average in 11 starts.

Stroman, though, has had some trouble with Dustin Pedroia, who is 4 for 7 with a double in their matchups.

Pedroia missed 58 of 64 games from June 25-Sept. 7 while battling a hamstring injury, but he's batting .379 with three homers in six since returning. He hit a two-run homer in the third and a three-run shot in the fourth during Wednesday's 10-1 win over Baltimore.

"I just feel strong, I feel healthy," Pedroia told MLB's official website. "That's how I felt before I got hurt. That's the frustrating part. Sometimes you get hurt and miss some time. The biggest thing for me is just being out there, feeling good and being able to help us win."

Boston won three of four the last time it visited Toronto June 29-July 2, with Rick Porcello (8-12, 5.06 ERA) suffering the lone defeat. He gave up seven runs in two innings, dropping to 1-3 with a 7.65 ERA in four career starts there.

The right-hander had a 5.81 ERA when he went on the disabled list Aug. 2 with a strained right triceps, but he's 3-1 with a 2.15 ERA in four starts since returning after pitching seven innings in Saturday's 10-4 win over Tampa Bay.

Porcello won't have to face Troy Tulowitzki, who saw a specialist Thursday regarding the cracked shoulder blade he suffered in a collision Saturday. There's no timetable for the star shortstop's return.