With their two closest challengers reeling, the Red Sox have a chance to seize control of the American League East race this week.
But dropping a series to the cellar-dwelling Blue Jays wouldn't do much to help accomplish that goal.
Boston and Toronto meet at Rogers Centre on Thursday night in the rubber match of a three-game set. The second-place Rays -- losers of six of seven -- and the third-place Orioles -- losers of three straight -- are each slumping, and Boston is looking to take full advantage. Entering Thursday, the Red Sox hold a three-game lead over the Rays and a six-game lead over the O's.
Jake Peavy gets the ball for the Red Sox, making his third start for them since being acquired from the White Sox in a Trade Deadline deal. He was solid in his first time out for Boston, but surrendered six runs on 10 hits Friday in Kansas City.
"I didn't feel good stuff-wise or command-wise," Peavy said. "There were a lot of two-strike hits, and my stuff just wasn't sharp at all."
Mark Buehrle, Peavy's former White Sox teammate, gets the ball for Toronto. The veteran left-hander has been a different pitcher at home this season, where he's 6-2 with a 3.09 ERA. In 12 road starts, Buehrle is 2-5, 5.90.
Against the A's on Saturday, Buehrle needed 101 pitches to make it through just 5 1/3 innings. But he managed to limit the damage to three runs on seven hits and picked up the victory.
As of late, the Red Sox have had the Blue Jays' number. Toronto has dropped seven of 11 against Boston, dating back to last season, as well as seven of 11 against the Sox at Rogers Centre. Buehrle has had similar trouble against Boston in his career, having gone 6-9 with a 4.63 ERA.
Red Sox: Napoli comes through
• Mired in one of the worst slumps of his career, Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli was dropped to seventh in the batting order on Wednesday -- the lowest order position in which he has hit all season. Napoli responded with a game-tying two run homer in the ninth, but the Red Sox went on to lose in 10.
"I've been struggling a little bit, and I'm up for whatever is going to help us win," Napoli said. "If it's dropping me down a little bit until I get out of this little funk I'm going through, I'm all for it."
Despite the homer, Napoli has posted just six hits in 42 at-bats this month.
Blue Jays: Roster shuffled
• Toronto traded utility man Emilio Bonifacio to Kansas City on Wednesday for cash or a player to be named. The Blue Jays also lost center fielder Colby Rasmus, who was placed on the disabled list with a strained left oblique muscle.
In a pair of corresponding moves, the club recalled infielder Munenori Kawasaki and purchased the contract of prospect Kevin Pillar, who was taken in the 32nd round of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft -- and was none too pleased about being selected so late.
"There's definitely a chip on my shoulder to prove that they may have got it wrong at the Draft -- that the system may not be perfect; that there's an imperfection to the Draft system the way that scouts evaluate players," said Pillar, who went 0-for-4 and made a diving catch in left field in his big league debut on Wednesday.
• In 71 lifetime at-bats against Buehrle, Boston designated hitter David Ortiz is hitting .352 with three homers and 13 RBIs. Of the seven Red Sox with at least 10 at-bats against Buehrle, five are hitting at least .300 against him.
• The Red Sox have outscored the Blue Jays, 46-26, in eight games at Rogers Centre this season. Boston is 5-3 in those contests.
• Peavy has held Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista to just two hits -- both singles -- in 14 at-bats.