(Photo credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports)
After being swept in a four-game series by the Texas Rangers, the Toronto Blue Jays can clinch their three-game set with the visiting Boston Red Sox on Saturday afternoon.
The Blue Jays (81-67) took the series opener 3-0 over the Red Sox (74-74) on Friday night.
"We've got a 15-game season right now," Blue Jays manager John Schneider said before the Friday game.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hit a three-run home run in the third inning to provide the only scoring. It was enough for right-hander Jose Berrios, who struck out eight in seven innings.
Guerrero's homer was the only blemish on the performance of Boston right-hander Brayan Bello, who struck out a career-best 10 in six innings.
The victory moved the Blue Jays to within a half-game of the Seattle Mariners (81-66) for the third American League wild-card spot. The Mariners lost 6-3 to the visiting Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday.
"We're in a good position right now," Guerrero said through a club interpreter. "If you take a look at Texas and Seattle's schedules, they have to play seven games against one another, which is good for us. We just have to stay positive, keep working hard and get some more victories."
Schneider said, "That's a huge homer from him today. Not to be overlooked was (Bo Bichette's) at-bat before, when he had a 3-2 walk. That's the thing we're talking about. It doesn't have to be Vlad, Bo or George (Springer). It's everyone doing their thing. Bo's at-bat was huge before Vladdy, but his timing definitely looks better."
Berrios said, "We've turned the page. Tonight, we start with winning, and we hope we can keep that streak going long."
Toronto is 4-4 on a 10-game homestand that ends Sunday.
The Red Sox have lost eight of their past 10 and have fallen out of the AL wild-card race.
Toronto is scheduled to start right-hander Chris Bassitt (14-8, 3.83 ERA) on Saturday. In two career starts against Boston, he is 2-0 with a 1.93 ERA. He beat the Red Sox on Aug. 6 after throwing seven innings of one-run ball.
Left-hander Chris Sale (6-4, 4.88 ERA) is scheduled to oppose Bassitt. In 19 career games (16 starts) against Toronto, he is 8-5 with a 2.93 ERA. Since coming off the injured list Aug. 11, Sale is 1-2 with 5.53 ERA in six starts.
Sale's fastball averaged only 92.3 mph in his latest outing as he allowed seven runs, six earned, in four innings on Sept. 9 against the Baltimore Orioles. He was given six days off in the hopes of rejuvenating his arm.
"Obviously, it hasn't been easy," Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. "You see flashes of 96 and 97, but he's been pitching at 91-92 and the off-speed pitches are on and off."
Sale has not faced the Blue Jays since July 18, 2019, when he threw six shutout innings and struck out 12 in Boston.
Boston won the first seven matchups with the Blue Jays this season, but Toronto has won the past four.
First baseman Triston Casas (sore right shoulder) was a late scratch on Friday, but the Red Sox hope that he can play Saturday.
Toronto recalled right-hander Nate Pearson from Triple-A Buffalo and optioned right-hander Bowden Francis to Buffalo.
Boston recalled left-hander Chris Murphy from Triple-A Worcester and optioned left-hander Brandon Walter to Worcester. Murphy struck out the side in the seventh inning on Friday and added a perfect eighth.
--Field Level Media