Just when it seemed the Blue Jays' hot streak might have ended, they bounced back from two tough losses with a convincing 3-0 win over the Rays on Wednesday.
Not far removed from an 11-game winning streak, Toronto will try to carry its momentum to Fenway Park, where the Blue Jays and Red Sox will start a four-game series Thursday night.
"We had a nice streak, then we lost a couple in a tough place for us. [Wednesday] was big," Toronto manager John Gibbons said Wednesday. "We needed that."
While the Blue Jays have been playing better overall of late, the key to their recent success has been strong pitching. R.A. Dickey lowered Toronto's staff ERA in June to 2.46 on Wednesday. Chien-Ming Wang will look to pick up Thursday where Dickey left off, carrying a personal streak of 16 2/3 innings without allowing an earned run into his fourth outing of the year.
Lining up opposite Wang will be Red Sox lefty Jon Lester, who has only one quality start in his past seven outings, with a 7.30 ERA in that span. Red Sox manager John Farrell said Lester is healthy and repeating his delivery. His issue is simply one of consistency and execution, especially with two outs and runners on base.
"We've got to get Jon Lester back on track. There's no denying that," Farrell said. "He'd be the first to admit to you as well, and there are signs within each outing that that is imminent.
"I don't think [the] stretch he's on will continue. He's too talented of a pitcher. I firmly believe the group that we have here are very capable of keeping us in the position we are over the next three months."
Lester will face a tough challenge Thursday against Toronto, which added shortstop Jose Reyes to the top of its powerful lineup before Wednesday's game. Behind him is a group of hitters with 31 homers this month, the most in the Majors.
With that kind of power backing up their pitching, Farrell could see the Blue Jays' hot streak continuing for quite some time.
"Not surprised at all. They're pitching much more consistently of late over the last month," Farrell said. "Their bullpen has been outstanding, and they're getting more consistent starting pitching. I think everyone fully anticipated them scoring a lot of runs, but over the stretch that they're on, you can point to their pitching as being much improved."
Blue Jays: Reyes returns
• Reyes went without a hit in his return to the Blue Jays' lineup, but he made a couple of sharp defensive plays at shortstop. Reyes was activated off the 60-day disabled list before Wednesday's victory, having missed a total of 66 games due to a severely sprained left ankle.
"It was good to see him back out there, bouncing around," Gibbons said. "He didn't get any hits, but he hit some ground balls on the nose. It's good to have him back."
• Edwin Encarnacion is batting .318 (50-for-157) with 13 doubles, 12 homers and 39 RBIs over his last 39 games since May 12.
Red Sox: Mortensen activated; Beato optioned
• Boston activated right-hander Clayton Mortensen from the 15-day disabled list before Wednesday's game. The Red Sox had previously cleared a spot on the roster for Mortensen by sending righty Pedro Beato to Triple-A Pawtucket on Tuesday night.
Mortensen pitched in three Minor League rehab games for Pawtucket, posting a 4.50 ERA with two walks and four strikeouts. With the Red Sox this season, he owns a 1-2 record and 5.34 ERA in 30 1/3 relief innings.
Beato didn't allow a run in three relief appearances this season, and he was 5-1 with two saves and a 1.83 ERA in 20 relief appearances for Pawtucket.
• Jacoby Ellsbury has recorded multiple hits in six of his last nine games, batting .410 (16-for-39) in that span. He's also hit safely in 21 of 24 games since May 26, posting a .387 average over the last month.
• The Blue Jays have recorded six shutouts this season, with four of them coming this month.
• Red Sox third baseman Jose Iglesias didn't reach base in Wednesday's contest, snapping a streak of 27 consecutive games with a plate appearance in which he reached base safely. He batted .430 (40-for-93) during that stretch before going 0-for-4 on Wednesday.