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Jays-Sox Highlights Weekend in AL East

An injury to Jon Lester may have dampened the mood after Boston defeated Toronto in Thursday's series-opener.

An injury to Jon Lester may have dampened the mood after Boston defeated Toronto in Thursday’s series-opener.

The Boston Red Sox claimed first blood in their weekend series with the Toronto Blue Jays Thursday, defeating the surging side 7-4 at Fenway Park.

20130627_AL_EastThe first game of a four-game set had plenty of drama and headline material, exactly what was expected of the high-profile showdown. The series is certainly one-to-watch this weekend.

In addition to the Fenway blockbuster, the AL East also sees the New York Yankees visit the Baltimore Orioles this weekend in a series that won’t be all that far behind the Jays-Sox matchup. Meanwhile, the Tampa Bay Rays host the Detroit Tigers at Tropicana Field.

Toronto Blue Jays at Boston Red Sox

Thursday night’s series opener saw the Toronto Blue Jays arrive in Bean Town as winners of 12 of the last 14 games. Having been 12 games back of the Boston Red Sox on June 10, the club entered this one just 6 1/2 games back.

Josh Johnson will look to guide the Blue Jays to victory Friday night.

Josh Johnson will look to guide the Blue Jays to victory Friday.

The Jays’ impressive run – which saw the team win 11 straight before losing a pair in Tampa this week – wasn’t enough to intimidate the AL-leading Red Sox, who jumped out to an early lead on the back of a seven-run second inning.

The Sox got an impressive outing from Jon Lester (8-4, 4.61 ERA), who didn’t yield a hit until the fifth inning. He finished the game having allowed four runs on five hits, but looked better than those numbers as he recorded his second straight win.

It wasn’t all good news for John Farrell and the Red Sox on Thursday. Lester left the game in the eighth after a suspect landing following a pitch. Early reports say he slightly jammed his right hip on the play. The club will keep an eye on him over the next few days.

In addition, the Red Sox also learned that ace pitcher Clay Buchholz (9-0, 1.71 ERA) – currently on the DL with a neck sprain – has been shut down for two to three days after experiencing soreness in his shoulder. The club hopes he’ll return to throwing this weekend.

Toronto (39-39, 17-22 road) and Boston (48-33, 26-15 home) resume their series Friday night with Toronto’s Josh Johnson (1-2, 4.60 ERA) facing Allen Webster (0-2, 11.25 ERA). Those inflated ERAs could make this a high-scoring game.

Toronto Blue Jays vs. Boston Red Sox odds for 6/28/13 are available now.

The opening moneyline saw Boston (-113) favored over Toronto (+103) thanks in part to home field advantage and a 6-4 straight up record against the Blue Jays this season.

Looking ahead, Sunday’s game sees an intriguing matchup between Mark Buehrle (4-5, 4.7 ERA) and Ryan Dempster (5-8, 4.15 ERA), two pitchers that we know have good stuff but have struggled in their new surroundings so far this season.

New York Yankees at Baltimore Orioles

It wasn’t quite Black Thursday for the New York Yankees, but it wasn’t far off.

The Yankees lost a close game to the Texas Rangers Thursday night, falling 2-0 in a pitchers’ duel, losing the series 2-1 in the process. But it wasn’t the on-field loss that made the headlines.

Alex Rodriguez continues to be a major distraction for the New York Yankees.

Alex Rodriguez continues to be a distraction for the Yankees.

The on-going spat between third baseman Alex Rodriguez and the Yankees’ front office took another turn for the bizarre as Rodriguez apparently informed sources that he might not play for the Yankees again this season. This coming just days after ‘Tweetgate’. It also comes on the back of the Yankees learning that they will lose first baseman Mark Teixeira to season-ending surgery.

With stability at a premium in Yankeeland, the last thing the club needs is an important series against division rivals, Baltimore. But that’s exactly what they get starting Friday (7:05 p.m. ET).

A visit from the Yankees (42-36, 19-18 road) might be exactly what Baltimore (44-36-, 22-17 home) needs. Losers of four of the last six – which included a three-game sweep by Toronto – Buck Showalter’s side needs to start stringing wins together to keep within touching distance of the Red Sox. The Orioles currently sit 3 1/2 games back of the Red Sox and one game ahead of the Yankees.

The O’s will send T.J. McFarland (1-0, 4.14 ERA) to the mound Friday, replacing Kevin Gausman (0-3, 7.66 ERA) who was originally penciled in. New York will give the ball to David Phelps (5-4, 4.05 ERA).

The Yankees will be pleased to see C.C. Sabathia (8-5, 4.09 ERA) and Hiroki Kuroda (7-5, 2.77 ERA) take to the mound this weekend, but those Baltimore bats might be a little too loud to quiet.

New York Yankees vs. Baltimore Orioles odds for 6/28/13 were unavailable at time of publication but will be ready shortly. Expect the O’s to open as favorites at home and in the wake of a tumultuous week for the Yankees.

Detroit Tigers at Tampa Bay Rays

After 10 straight against AL East opponents, you might think the Tampa Bay Rays would be happy – and relieved – for some inter-division play. Of course, a visit from the defending American League champions probably isn’t something the side had in mind.

Max Scherzer will look to go 12-0 in Friday's series-opener against the Tampa Bay Rays.

Max Scherzer will look to go 12-0 Friday in Tampa.

Having split those 10 games 5-5, Tampa Bay (41-38, 23-17 home) will hope to get something out of this weekend’s three-game series with Detroit (42-35, 16-19 road).

The Rays fell 2-1 to the Tigers in a series at Comerica Park earlier this season. They’ll be looking for better this weekend. The Tigers meanwhile are looking to bounce back from being swept at home by the Los Angeles Angels.

Tampa Bay will need to contend with the formidable pairing of Max Scherzer (11-0, 3.05 ERA) and Justin Verlander (8-5, 3.90 ERA) who start on Friday and Saturday respectively. It’ll be down to Alex Colome (1-0, 0.00 ERA) and Chris Archer (2-3, 4.21 ERA) to hold-up the Rays’ end of things.

Detroit Tigers vs. Tampa Bay Rays odds for 6/28/13 are available now.

Detroit (-135) is a rare road favorite leaving Tampa Bay (+125) as the moneyline underdog. The over/under opened at 8, with the over (-120) favored against the under (-100).

For a comprehensive look at all of Friday’s games, be sure to check out the BettingSports.com MLB Odds page.

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