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BOS@TOR: Buchholz limits Blue Jays for first 2014 win

BOSTON -- After crushing the Rangers with a combined 25 runs in a three-game sweep in Texas, the A's will take their bats northeast to counter with Boston's staff following Thursday's off-day.

Red Sox righty Clay Buchholz gets the first crack at Oakland's red-hot lineup, with the A's sending Dan Straily to the mound for the three-game series opener Friday.

The two clubs split the season series, 3-3, last year.

Straily bounced back from a pair of sub-standard outings in his most recent start against the Astros on Saturday, giving up three runs on four hits and two walks with seven strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings.

He had allowed a combined nine earned runs in his previous two starts spanning just 8 2/3 innings while struggling with his fastball command, which remains his biggest focus.

"Every day you're going to go out there and your best pitch is going to vary as a starter," Straily said Saturday. "For me, my best pitch was definitely not my fastball. It was probably my fourth-best pitch. So I worked around that and found a way to get as many outs as I could with what I had in the tank."

The 25-year-old, who struck out over a batter an inning in his Minor League career, has been racking up the strikeouts with greater frequency in 2014, fanning 28 batters over his first 28 innings.

Straily is part of an A's rotation that exited Wednesday with an American League-best 2.85 ERA, despite the club losing Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin to Tommy John surgery.

Oakland is an AL-best 18-10.

"We felt like we had the guys to be able to fill in, but you look at the numbers, and I wouldn't say it's surprising but it's been unbelievable," said manager Bob Melvin. "It feels like they all feed off each other and push each other and motivate each other."

The Red Sox had a mediocre April, going 13-14. Now that Shane Victorino and Will Middlebrooks are both back in the lineup, they think they can get back to being a championship-caliber team.

"We're moving in the right direction," Red Sox manager John Farrell said, before his club fell to 13-16 with a pair of losses to the Rays on Thursday. "We finished up the month in a positive way, both in terms of health and more consistent offensive approach. We've gone through a number of challenges both performance-wise, health that kept us from being full strength for most of the month. While the win/loss record is less than we would hope for, we're moving in the right direction."

David Ortiz agrees that now is not the time to panic.

"This first month is one of those months where a lot of things happened but I think it was OK," Ortiz said. "I don't think it was that bad -- it could be worse. We kind of evened things out. If you look at this division, pretty much everyone's in the same boat. Everybody got stronger this offseason, everyone has a better team, so it's not like it's going to be easy."

Ortiz also thinks you can't discount the impact Victorino and Middlebrooks will have.

"Definitely, those guys are some of the secret weapons we've got and they always help us out to win games, and make the team better," Ortiz said.

A's: Lowrie bringing hot bat to old stomping grounds

A's shortstop Jed Lowrie, who received a scheduled day off Wednesday in advance of the club's off-day Thursday, will return to the starting lineup in Boston on Friday to face his former team.

Lowrie, who played with the Red Sox from 2008-11, enters the series batting .328 (20-for-61) with seven doubles and a home run over his last 14 games, after going 2-for-18 over his previous seven contests.

The veteran infielder ranks third in the American League in walks (20) and fourth in on-base percentage (.423).

Red Sox: Buchholz shows progress

Though Buchholz has had an uneven start to this season, his last outing was his best, as he limited the Blue Jays to three runs over seven innings. The right-hander will open this three-game series against the Athletics.

"Given the work I did before my last start, I was feeling really good about everything that we put into the start in Toronto," said Buchholz. "I was almost too amped up for that start at the beginning. It was a continuation of how I was throwing in the bullpen before the game. Everything was up and I wasn't finishing many pitches. I had some great defensive plays behind me to save some innings. I figured out a way to settle down after that."

Buchholz is still regaining his arm strength after his shoulder woes last season.

"The way Clay came out of Saturday feeling pretty good about himself is a step in the right direction," said manager John Farrell.

Worth Noting

• The Red Sox will enter Friday's series opener on the heels of a day-night doubleheader sweep by the Rays.

• The A's are 12-2 when scoring first, which is the best record in the American League.

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