After a competitive but frustrating series loss to begin their season, the Toronto Blue Jays can ill afford any kind of letdown as they host the defending World Series champion Boston Red Sox in their home opener at Rogers Centre.
Toronto dropped two of three games this week against the New York Yankees in the Bronx — including a 3-2 decision on Thursday — but managed to outscore them by a total of 9-8.
Dustin McGowan pitched well in Thursday's effort, allowing two earned runs on four hits with three walks and four strikeouts in six innings of work.
Brian Wolfe (0-1) earned the loss after he allowed a single to Melky Cabrera in the eighth inning. Cabrera eventually scored on a bloop RBI single from Bobby Abreu off Jays reliever Scott Downs.
"It was just like the first game here. Tight ballgame. You've got to be able to win some of them," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "I thought we left all those tight games behind us last year, but I guess not."
Toronto will look to get its second series of the major-league season off to a better start when Shaun Marcum (12-6 last year, 4.13 ERA) gets the nod on Friday.
The right-hander emerged from the bullpen in May to become a surprisingly potent starter for Toronto last season, including some success against the Red Sox.
Marcum, 26, was 1-0 with an ERA of 4.09 in two starts against Boston last season, both resulting in Blue Jays wins.
Tired Red Sox keep rolling
His opponent will be 41-year-old knuckleball pitcher Tim Wakefield (17-12 last year, 4.76), who should feel more than comfortable at Rogers Centre.
Outside of Fenway Park, the right-hander has made more appearances (24) and starts (17) at the Toronto ballpark than any other during his career, posting a 6-4 record with an ERA of 4.32 in that span.
Last season, the 15-year veteran was 3-2 with a 3.38 ERA in five starts against Toronto.
Those numbers are encouraging for a Red Sox team that's undoubtedly a little road weary already this year.
Boston has navigated the globe to earn their 3-1 record and still won't get back to Fenway until it hosts its home opener against the Detroit Tigers next week.
The team began its season against the Oakland Athletics in Tokyo, rounded out its exhibition season against the Dodgers in Los Angeles and then travelled north to play another two against the A's.
Although manager Terry Francona has claimed that the travel has affected his club, the jet-lagged Red Sox team is still plenty dangerous, as it showed in its 5-0 win over the A's on Wednesday.
Jon Lester pitched 6 2/3 innings of shutout baseball, allowing just three hits and three walks with three strikeouts for Boston.
After an 0-11 start to the season, designated hitter David Ortiz broke out in a big way, belting a seventh-inning offering off Oakland reliever Alan Embree for his first home run of the season to break the scoreless tie.
"We're certainly not on all cylinders," Francona said after Wednesday's win. "That may be part of the trip.... But what they did today was good enough."
Boston and Toronto split their 18-game season series last year, with the Red Sox winning five of the nine games played at Rogers Centre.