Wed Sep 11 4:56am ET
Technically the Boston Red Sox remain mathematically alive in the American League wild-card race, but based on manager Alex Cora's plan to rest key players in the final weeks, they are aware of the reality.
Boston attempts to snap a four-game losing streak Wednesday night when it visits the Toronto Blue Jays for the middle game of a three-game series.
The Red Sox (76-69) are nine games behind the Oakland Athletics for the second AL wild card. While Boston dropped the series opener at Toronto 4-3 on Tuesday, Oakland cruised to a 21-7 win in Houston.
"As everybody knows, we're going to keep playing," Cora told reporters before Tuesday's game. "Whatever window we have, we have, but we're realistic."
Boston rested Xander Bogaerts on Tuesday, and Mookie Betts likely will rest Wednesday with Rafael Devers probably getting Thursday off.
"Little by little, we'll take care of them," Cora said. "I mean, you know how I feel about (Toronto's artificial) turf, so the timing is good, too. They've been going after it."
The Red Sox have been heading this way for the last few weeks during a season in which the defending champions have often struggled for consistency.
Getting swept in a four-game set at Yankee Stadium Aug. 2-4 all but eliminated any chances of winning the AL East. Boston's stretch of seven losses in 10 games essentially has made a fourth straight postseason appearance unlikely in the wake of firing general manager Dave Dombrowski on Sunday and getting officially eliminated from the division race Monday.
Betts hit his 20th career leadoff homer Tuesday, and he has reached safely in 24 straight games. J.D. Martinez had an RBI double, Andrew Benintendi hit an RBI single and Devers added his 50th double, but the Red Sox managed only one hit after the fifth inning.
Toronto (56-89) is attempting to win consecutive games for the first time since beating Texas on Aug. 12-13. Since then, the Blue Jays are 5-17.
Toronto halted its season-high, seven-game losing streak Tuesday by getting three homers from young players. Rowdy Tellez hit a go-ahead two-run homer in the fifth after rookies Cavan Biggio and Reese McGuire belted solo shots.
While Toronto is 7-10 this season against Boston, Tellez is batting .429 (15-for-35) with six homers in the season series. The long ball Tuesday was only his fourth since returning from the minors on Aug. 13.
Despite being on the verge of its first 90-loss season since 2004, Toronto has 12 players on its current rosters with double-digit homers, including first-year infielders Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette.
"I think this lineup is capable of great things," Toronto starter T.J. Zeuch told reporters. "You guys got a little taste of it tonight with the power. Names like Biggio, Bichette, Tellez, Vladdy, I think the lineup has a ceilingless potential."
Boston is expected to use relievers to cover all of the last two games of the series, with Bobby Poyner and Jhoulys Chacin serving as openers. Poyner has no decisions and a 10.50 ERA in his five appearances this season. He last pitched Saturday, throwing a perfect inning during the Red Sox's 5-1 loss to the Yankees.
Rookie Trent Thornton (4-9, 5.23 ERA) starts for Toronto and hopes to halt a six-start winless skid. Since beating Baltimore on Aug. 1, he is 0-2 with a 5.21 ERA.
Thornton last pitched in a 6-4 loss at Tampa Bay on Thursday, when he allowed three runs (one earned) on four hits in 4 2/3 innings. He is 0-2 with a 12.19 ERA in three starts against Boston.
Poyner has pitched twice against Toronto, both times last year, when he allowed one run in a total of one inning.
--Field Level Media