Toronto Bluejays vs. Boston Red Sox – Robert Ray vs. Jon Lester

Toronto Blue Jays (27-15) Robert Ray +160, 10 O/U at Boston Red
Sox (23-16) Jon Lester -170, 10 O/U, Fenway Park, Boston, Mass.,
7:10 PM EST, Thursday

by Badger of

The Toronto Blue Jays will hand the ball to rookie right-hander
Robert Ray Thursday night as they try and salvage the final game of a
crucial three-game series in Fenway Park. The Red Sox will counter
with lefty Jon Lester as they try and continue their climb up the
American League East standings and keep the positive momentum in
their clubhouse.

If the three-game set with the Red Sox was supposed to be the
measuring stick of whether or not the Blue Jays are for real, well,
the Sox are drubbing the Jays with that stick. After taking the
opener on Tuesday in a 2-1 nail-biter, the Sox cruised to an easy 8-3
victory last night when a six-run 5th-inning broke the game wide
open. The Red Sox have reeled in the first-place Jays in the process
and trimmed their lead down to 2.5 games in the AL East.

Plus, there are all sorts of positive energy coming out of the Red
Sox dugout right now too. Designated hitter David Ortiz finally hit
his first homerun of the season yesterday, Kevin Youkilis returned
from the DL to go 3-for-5, and pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka is scheduled
to start the first game of the Sox interleague series with the New
York Mets Friday. All signs are pointing toward a Red Sox resurgence
as the calendar is poised to flip to June.

The Blue Jays, who came into the series fresh off of a four-game
sweep of the Chicago White Sox, must be wondering whats going on.
They pounded out 14 hits in their loss last night, but havent been
able to get runners to the plate in the first two games of the
series. And to top it off, theyll be asking a rookie with only three
games of major league experience to try and stop the slide tonight.

Oddsmakers arent expecting that to happen though, as theyve staked
the Red Sox and Lester as large -170 favorites on the moneyline
tonight. Ray and the Jays are +160 underdogs on the dimeline, and the
over/under total is listed at 10 at most sportsbooks.

The large odds in favor of the Sox is sort of surprising considering
Lester has been terrible his last few outings. In fact, hes been
sketchy all season long, but hes been really bad of late. In his
last two starts the lefty has allowed 18 hits and 13 runs in just 10
innings of work, and both games ended as losses to Tampa Bay and
Seattle. On the season Lester is 2-4 with a 6.51 ERA, a 1.62 WHIP and
a .365 opponents on-base percentage, but the Sox are just 4-4 in his
eight starts.

Lesters career numbers versus the Jays dont exactly inspire
confidence that hell turn it around either, as he is 1-2 with a low
3.94 ERA in five starts against the AL East rivals. The Jays low .212
batting average and .318 OBP versus Lester is something for Sox fans
to hang their hat on though.

Ray, who was brought up in early May when the Blue Jays starters
began dropping like flies, has done an decent job in his three major-
league starts. Overall he is 1-1 with a 3.60 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP, but
his best start of the season by far was his last one last Saturday
when he went 8 innings and allowed just three hits and one run in a
2-1 victory over the White Sox.

But the White Sox lineup pales in comparison to the Red Sox, and
along with the Fenway faithful and positive vibes coming from the
opposing dugout, tonights game is sure to be Rays first major test
as a true big league pitcher.

With last nights win the Red Sox have now won three straight and six
of the last seven games against the Blue Jays, including five of the
last six at Fenway.

With the powerful offenses both the Jays (5.60 r/g 3rd; .286 ba
2nd) and the Red Sox (5.38 8th; .273 6th) have, its surprising
to note that the under is 7-3 in the last 10 games head-to-head at

Badgers Pick: I like Lester and the Red Sox to keep their surge
going again tonight, but at -170 its too much wood to lay in my
opinion. Not with the way Lester has been pitching. I expect the Jays
bats to break out of their Fenway funk tonight too, so Im taking the
over of 10.