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Blue Jays seek third straight win against Red Sox

Sep 22, 2006 - 12:49 PM Boston (82-71) at Toronto (80-72) 7:07 pm EDT

TORONTO (Ticker) - Having been mathematically eliminated from division title contention earlier this week, the Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays are left to battle for second place in the American League East.

Separated by 1 1/2 games in the race for runner-up, the teams meet in Friday's opener of a four-game series at Rogers Centre.

The Blue Jays officially were knocked out of the division race with Tuesday's 6-3 loss to the New York Yankees, who clinched their ninth straight AL East title when the Red Sox lost to Minnesota the next day. Toronto won the finale of its three-game series with New York on Wednesday, improving to 11-7 in September.

After opening the month with a 2-1 loss at Boston in a game started by Ted Lilly (14-12, 4.44 ERA), the Blue Jays salvaged a four-game series split by winning the final two contests. Toronto has won four of six meetings here this season.

Since allowing two runs and four hits in 6 1/3 innings at Fenway Park on September 1, Lilly has posted a 2.37 ERA in winning his last three starts. The lefthander is trying to reach the 15-win plateau for the first time in his career.

Lilly has dropped his last two meetings with the Red Sox after going 5-0 with a 1.76 ERA in his previous seven starts against them dating to 2004.

Boston counters with Julian Tavarez (3-4, 4.89), who has gone 1-0 with a 5.49 ERA since joining the rotation last month. Making his first start in four years, Tavarez allowed three runs and five hits in three innings of an eventual 6-4 victory against Toronto on August 31.

The Red Sox prevented Minnesota from moving into first place in the AL Central on Thursday, posting a 6-0 win as Josh Beckett outdueled Johan Santana. David Ortiz homered twice to push his league-leading total to a franchise-record 52.

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