|Toronto's Happ gets chance to slow down Red Sox train|
BOSTON -- David Price spent the end of the 2015 season going 9-1 and helping the Toronto Blue Jays make it to the postseason.
But since then, the left-hander has spent his career tormenting Canada's team.
Thursday night, Price, 19-3 with a 2.46 ERA in his career against the Jays, looks to both put a stop to his two-start fade and pitch his team to its 10th straight win when the Boston Red Sox open a four-game series with the Toronto Blue Jays.
Price, who has allowed 12 earned runs on 15 hits in eight innings over his last two starts, faces Toronto's J.A. Happ, who has also been struggling -- and is also the center of trade speculation -- in the opener of the series that takes both teams to the All-Star break.
The sizzling Red Sox (65-29) have won nine in a row for the second time this season after finishing off their third straight three-game series sweep by downing the Texas Rangers 4-2 Wednesday night.
Like Price, Happ has done well against Thursday night's opponent. While Price is 2-0 against Toronto this season, Happ pitched a gem against the Red Sox April 24, allowing one run over seven innings. He is 7-3 with a 3.09 career ERA against Boston, and at Fenway Park, he is 4-1 with a 3.16 ERA.
In his last two starts, though, Happ, who is 10-5 with a 4.44 ERA for the season, has worked just 8 1/3 innings, yielding 14 hits and 13 earned runs, with seven walks and nine strikeouts.
Price is 9-6 on the season with a 4.44 ERA.
And after a poor outing that saw him become the first Red Sox pitcher to hit three batters in the same inning (in the fifth inning of a 15-4 game he didn't last long enough to win), Price said, "To give up that lead the way I gave it up, not to be able to get through five innings, that's tough. But my teammates really picked me up, and that's huge."
His teammates remain on fire. They have scored 67 runs during their nine-game winning streak and rode Cy Young Award candidate Chris Sale's 10th victory to the latest win -- moving to 36 games over .500 for the first time since 1978. The win maintained their 3 1/2- game lead over the New York Yankees atop the American League East.
This is the first time the Red Sox have had two winning streaks of at least nine games in a season since 1948.
"I think we won the most games in spring training, right?" Sale said after his latest gem Wednesday. "I think a lot of people kind of pushed that to the wayside, but we were ready to win from Day 1."
The Red Sox are 7-2 against the Jays this season, most recently sweeping a three-game series at Fenway May 28-30.
The Jays are 42-49 on the season, splitting a two-game series in Atlanta. They have lost three of their last four.
Happ is arguably the top starting pitcher available as the July 31 trade deadline approaches. The Yankees and Chicago Cubs are copnsidered the frontrunners to acquire him.
"I'm just focused on playing for the Blue Jays right now,'' Happ told reporters. "There's rumors out there, you never know what's speculation, what's true and what has any realistic chance -- I'm just trying to play and pitch. I'm happy right here and we'll see what happens."
While he has no idea where he might be headed in a trade, he knows he's going to Washington from Boston after getting his first All-Star nod.
"Really, there's no other way to describe it than it's a dream come true," Happ said after getting word. "I was a big baseball card collector as a kid. I always collected all of the All-Star cards, and it was kind of a surreal moment today when I found out. I certainly was hoping there was a chance, but it's just a dream come true."
If you needed more proof of the two veteran left-handers' pitching against the other team, just examine the numbers.
Of the current Blue Jays, Devon Travis, who hit a grand slam in Wednesday night's 9-5 loss at Atlanta, is 5-for-14 (.357) against Price, but Kevin Pillar is 3-for-19 (.158) with a homer, Russell Martin 5-for-29 (.172), Yangervis Solarte 3-for-16 (.188) and Curtis Granderson 10-for-51 (.196) Granderson, however has hit four homers against Price.
Steve Pearce, the newest bat in the Boston lineup, is 10-for-28 with five homers against Happ, who was until recently a teammate. But Andrew Benintendi is 0-for-13, Jackie Bradley Jr. 2-for-17 (.118), Xander Bogaerts 3-for-24 (.125), Sandy Leon 1-for-8 (.125) and Mookie Betts 5-for-29 (.172) with a homer.
Not all the news is great for the high-flying Red Sox. It was announced Tuesday that Dustin Pedroia would continue his rehab (knee) in Arizona. Wednesday, word came it will be four to five weeks before Pedroia even has another MRI.
"The treatment that I need, it's tough to get all that done (in Boston)," said Pedroia, who will work with a therapist who has helped him in the past. "Our staff is trying to get all the other guys ready. It's tough. It stinks leaving the guys, but it's kind of the right thing to do so I can concentrate on my rehab."