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CWS@TOR: Laffey strikes out five over six innings

As wild as the top half of the American League East has been over the past month, the Red Sox and Blue Jays have remained far from playoff contention as a pair of disappointing seasons wind to a close.

Friday night in Toronto, the two teams face each other for the final time this season in a three-game set. Last weekend, the Blue Jays swept the Red Sox in three games at Fenway Park by a combined 20-10 margin.

While the Blue Jays pitchers have remained a season-long problem, the Red Sox haven't fared any better. Between the two teams, Toronto right-hander Brandon Morrow is the only starter with a sub-4.00 ERA at 3.16. Morrow will start Sunday's series finale, while left-hander Aaron Laffey gets the opener and right-hander Carlos Villanueva takes Saturday's game.

Laffey took the mound in the Blue Jays' victory on Saturday, a rain-delayed 9-2 victory. Two separate delays messed with Laffey's rhythm, forcing him from the game after 4 2/3 innings and two runs allowed on four hits.

The outing was Laffey's first since rejoining Toronto's rotation after J.A. Happ was shut down with a fractured right ankle.

"I was in a really good groove, I was having that feeling like I was going to go the whole distance," Laffey said after the start. "After the break, I really didn't have it."

The Red Sox, meanwhile, enter the series after dropping two of three to the Yankees -- all games being decided by two runs or less. Boston grabbed a 4-3 win on Tuesday before falling 5-4 on Wednesday and ending the series with a 2-0 loss on Thursday.

Red Sox: Matsuzaka takes mound for opener in Toronto
• After he was shelled by the Blue Jays last weekend to the tune of five runs on five hits in just 1 1/3 innings, Daisuke Matsuzaka has to face Toronto in his next start on Friday.

Matsuzaka threw only 42 pitches -- his second-lowest total in 113 career starts -- and unraveled after surrendering a solo home run over Fenway Park's Green Monster to Yunel Escobar.

The 32-year-old right-hander is 1-5 with a 7.20 ERA over 35 innings pitched this season. He is also slated to be a free agent after this season.

"Honestly, I don't know whether I'll be wearing this Red Sox uniform next year," Matsuzaka said through interpreter Jeff Cutler after the start. "As I said before, it's an honor to be able to wear this Red Sox uniform, but it hasn't been an added stress for me."

Blue Jays: Toronto looking for more consistency from Rasmus
• Colby Rasmus has been a critical part of the Blue Jays' power output this season, ranking third on the team with 22 home runs.

But even after a 2-for-3 night against the Mariners on Thursday, Rasmus' batting average sits at .231 for the season. In his second season in Toronto and fourth in the big leagues, the 26-year-old center fielder has the Blue Jays looking for more consistency.

"He has so much talent, he is capable of so many things," general manager Alex Anthopoulos said. "If you told me he could hit 30 home runs, he's only at 22, I wouldn't be surprised. If you told me he was going to hit for a high average, I wouldn't be surprised. If you told me he was going to win a Gold Glove, I wouldn't be surprised.

"Those are the tools and that's the talent he has. But putting it together consistently from start to finish is a challenge for all players."

Worth noting
• After wrapping up their three-game series with the Yankees on Thursday, the Red Sox have just one more homestand remaining on the season. Boston's 17 remaining games are also all against AL East opponents.

• Edwin Encarnacion hit his 40th home run of the season on Thursday, keeping him one homer behind the Rangers' Josh Hamilton for the Major League lead.

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