GAME: Toronto Blue Jays (76-79) at Boston Red Sox (91-64).
TIME: Monday, 7:05 p.m. EDT.
Whether as a closer or starter, this has been a very disappointing season for Curt Schilling. That may not matter much if he pitches well from this point forward.
Schilling will try to help the Boston Red Sox maintain at least a share of first place in the AL East when they open a four-game series with the Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park.
Schilling led the major leagues with 21 wins last season and helped Boston win its first World Series title since 1918, pitching with a right ankle held together by sutures. He went on the disabled list April 29 because of a right ankle bruise, and when he was activated at the All-Star break, he worked out of the bullpen.
Filling in for injured closer Keith Foulke, Schilling went 4-3 with nine saves in 11 chances, but clearly wasn't comfortable pitching regularly in relief for the first time since 1992.
Schilling struggled upon returing to the rotation, going 0-2 in his first three starts, but has won two of his last three outings.
He was very effective in a 15-2 victory at Tampa Bay on Tuesday, allowing two runs and six hits in seven innings while walking one and striking out seven. The seven strikeouts were his most since he had 10 against Toronto on April 18.
After dropping out of first place in the AL East for two days, the Red Sox regained a share of the top spot with a three-game sweep at Baltimore this weekend.
Manny Ramirez hit his 41st home in a five-run first inning, and Johnny Damon connected during a four-run fifth, leading the Red Sox to a 9-3 victory Sunday.
With the win, Boston remained tied with the New York Yankees in the East. New York opens a four-game series in Baltimore on Monday before closing with three games at Fenway.
"I'm not going to get too excited about anything, not until we clinch a playoff spot and then after that not until you win the World Series," Damon said. "So there's not much comfort right now. We know we have to go play good baseball or we know our season is going to be over."
Although Boston owns the best home record in the majors (50-24), the Red Sox have lost nine of 14 games this season against the Blue Jays.
"It doesn't get any easier, but we've played them good all year," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "We'd love to go in there and knock them out somehow. We couldn't ask for more for what we're trying to do here. We're trying to build something, getting used to playing these type of games for our own experience."
The Blue Jays failed to hold a two-run lead Sunday at New York and lost 8-4.
Toronto has traded wins and losses in each of its last nine games.
STANDINGS: Blue Jays - 3rd place, 15 GB, AL East. Red Sox - 1st place (tied), AL East.
BLUE JAYS PROBABLE STARTER: Dave Bush (5-10, 4.45 ERA). The right-hander has been hit hard in losing his past two starts, allowing nine runs and nine hits in six innings with five walks and four strikeouts. Bush failed to make it past the fourth inning for the fourth time in his last eight starts as he was tagged for three runs and three hits over 3 1-3 innings in a 3-2 loss to Seattle on Wednesday. He is 0-2 with an 11.70 ERA in three starts this season against Boston.
RED SOX PROBABLE STARTER: Schilling (7-8, 5.89 ERA). Schilling is 3-6 with a 5.54 ERA in 14 career games, including 10 starts, against Toronto.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Blue Jays - Shea Hillenbrand, .295 avg. and 90 runs; Vernon Wells, 27 HRs and 92 RBIs; Alex Rios, 14 SBs. Red Sox - Damon, .314 avg. and 14 SBs.; David Ortiz, 46 HRs, 140 RBIs and 115 runs.
SEASON SERIES: Blue Jays, 9-5.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Blue Jays - OF Frank Catalanotto is 7-for-15 with three doubles against Schilling. ... Gibbons said if 2B Orlando Hudson (sprained ankle) can't return to the lineup by the middle of the week in Boston, he probably won't play again this season. ... 1B Hillenbrand is batting .357 (20-for-56) in 14 games this season against the Red Sox, his former team. Red Sox - 3B Bill Mueller is 3-for-4 against Bush. ... The Red Sox finished 41-40 on the road, their eighth straight winning season away from Fenway. ... LF Ramirez has five homers and 10 RBIs in his last five games.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Blue Jays- 35-42 on the road. Red Sox - 50-24 at home.
INJURIES: Blue Jays - RHP Roy Halladay (leg), 15-day DL. Red Sox - RHP Wade Miller (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Matt Mantei (ankle), 60-day DL.