Back-to-back wins and a 6-2 start to their homestand could be signs the Boston Red Sox are beginning to turn things around.
They'd be in an even bigger hole if not for the Toronto Blue Jays.
Boston looks to beat the Blue Jays for the fifth time in as many meetings this season as the teams continue their three-game set Tuesday night at Fenway Park.
An 8-12 record within the AL East, including a combined 2-8 mark against division-leading Tampa Bay and second-place New York, is a big reason the Red Sox (17-16) remain in fourth place.
They still trail the Blue Jays (19-15) by 1½ games, but they've won all four meetings with Toronto, earning a three-game road sweep April 26-28 before winning Monday's series opener 7-6.
Boston dropped two of three to the Yankees over the weekend, but an offence that was inconsistent throughout April has begun to find a groove during this homestand.
The Red Sox have averaged more than seven runs while winning six of eight. Six walks in Monday's second inning helped them improve to 10-4 in their last 14 at Fenway after losing six of their first seven there.
"There's something to be said for patience," manager Terry Francona said. "I know [Blue Jays starter Brandon] Morrow was having a tough time commanding, but we didn't go out of the zone and we got some runs because of it."
Boston's pitching has remained shaky, with John Lackey struggling Monday as the team's ERA rose to 5.16, among the five worst in the majors.
The Red Sox hope for an improvement from Daisuke Matsuzaka (1-1, 9.90 ERA) on Tuesday as the Japanese right-hander makes his third start following a season-opening stint on the disabled list.
Matsuzaka has been victimized by one bad inning in each of his first two outings. He allowed six runs in the fifth inning of a 12-9 loss at Baltimore on May 1, but picked up a victory Thursday despite giving up four runs in the first inning against the Los Angeles Angels.
Matsuzaka recovered to retire 13 of the last 16 batters he faced in Boston's 11-6 win.
'I'm a little jealous' of Braden: buddy Eveland
Toronto's Dana Eveland (3-1, 3.82) was outstanding through his entire outing Thursday at Chicago, holding the White Sox to two hits in seven innings of Toronto's 2-0 win.
The left-hander's worst start of the season came against the Red Sox, who clobbered him for seven runs in three innings of Boston's 13-12 win April 26. Eveland hasn't made it through five innings in any of his four career starts against the Red Sox, going 0-2 with an 18.24 ERA.
Acquired from Oakland on Feb. 6, Eveland is a close friend of A's southpaw Dallas Braden, who threw a perfect game against Tampa Bay on Sunday.
"I'm a little jealous, I'm not going to lie," Eveland told the Blue Jays' official website. "Especially when he's a guy who throws exactly like me."
Toronto's offence has supported its starters well throughout this road trip, averaging 5.6 runs while winning six of the first eight games. After a 2-for-4, two-RBI performance Monday, catcher John Buck is batting .410 with seven homers and 14 RBIs in his last 12 contests.
Lead-off man Fred Lewis added two hits, his sixth multi-hit effort during a seven-game hitting streak.