Before the start of the 2012 season, experts and bloggers alike had flip-flopping predictions of how the American League East standings would pan out. Some had the Red Sox finishing ahead of the Blue Jays, others were vice versa.
Yet here we are, roughly 50 games in to the season and the division is a logjam. True, the Red Sox are in last place. That said, they have a winning record (thank God) and are merely three games out of first place behind the slumping Baltimore Orioles.
With that in mind, the Toronto Blue Jays are just one game up on the Red Sox. If ever there was a series that could be used as a measuring stick, this would be the one.
In their first meeting in early April the Red Sox lost the series, two games to one. They were outscored 14-6 and were still trying to find their identity as a team.
Here we are about a month-and-a-half later, and the Red Sox are finally looking like a solid baseball club. True, it is in spite of major losses to the lineup. True, there has been a lot of patchwork on the field (hello... Adrian Gonzalez in right?). That said, the team has been persevering and actually winning ballgames.
The Blue Jays were reeling, losers of five straight before correcting their path and taking three straight against the Orioles.
Taking the mound for the Red Sox in Game 1 of this series will be Clay Buchholz, a player in need of stringing together a few solid starts to prove his worth. His 4-2 record is not indicative of the more deserving 7.19 ERA he owns.
For the Blue Jays, 3-4 Henderson Alvarez takes the mound with his 3.56 ERA. Alvarez needs to continue the Jays' winning streak while Buchholz needs to keep the Red Sox from losing two straight at a time when every win counts.
Saturday afternoon we will see 5-2, 3.86 ERA Felix Doubront facing 4-5, 4.55 ERA Kyle Drabek.
Sunday will be 5-5, 4.56 ERA Daniel Bard up against 4-2, 4.84 ERA Drew Hutchinson.
As I said, this will be a measuring stick series. At the end of it, we will know if the Red Sox are finally corrected, can the team rely on the arms of Buchholz and Bard while hoping that Doubront can remain consistent. We'll also learn if the offense handle a solid, albeit injured, pitching staff in Toronto.