TORONTO — Two of the most surprising teams in baseball meet Tuesday when the Toronto Blue Jays open a three-game series against the visiting Boston Red Sox. Toronto’s offseason overhaul earned the club plenty of preseason praise, but a 9-17 April has the Blue Jays floundering near the bottom of the American League standings. The Red Sox came in with modest expectations but lead the majors with an 18-7 mark — one win shy of the club record for victories in April.
Boston enters the series on a five-game winning streak and will be in good shape to extend that run Tuesday with left-hander Jon Lester on the hill. Lester has put his dismal 2012 season well behind him with four victories in five April starts. He’ll oppose hard-throwing right-hander Brandon Morrow, who is still looking for his first win of the season. It’s the second meeting of the season between the AL East rivals. Boston won two of three at the Rogers Centre April 5-7.
TV: 7:07 p.m. ET, NESN (Boston), RSN (Toronto)
PITCHING MATCHUP: Red Sox LH Jon Lester (4-0, 2.27 ERA) vs. Blue Jays RH Brandon Morrow (0-2, 5.27)
Lester’s return to elite status hit a minor bump last time out, as he overcame six hits and six walks over 5 2/3 innings to pull out a win over the Oakland Athletics. The 29-year-old has done an impressive job keeping the ball in the park. After surrendering a career-high 25 home runs a season ago, Lester has given up just one through his first 31 2/3 innings. He threw seven shutout innings in a 13-0 rout of the Blue Jays on April 7.
Morrow missed the Red Sox earlier on the month, but they know him well. The 28-year-old is 1-3 with an 8.28 ERA in 16 career encounters with Boston, including eight starts. His last against the Sox was easily his best, as he threw six scoreless innings but settled for a no-decision in a 5-0 Toronto win Sept. 16. Known as a strikeout pitcher, Morrow has fanned just 11 hitters over his last four starts spanning 21 1/3 frames.
NOTES: Players on Toronto’s roster are a collective .217 against Lester with 10 home runs in 244 at-bats. … Red Sox stars Jacoby Ellsbury, David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia are a combined 24-for-52 with seven home runs against Morrow. … Boston pitchers have compiled 248 strikeouts, the highest April tally in major-league history.