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BOS@HOU: Lackey limits two runs over six innings

The Blue Jays and Red Sox kick off second-half competition in the American League East on Monday in Toronto.

Boston just completed a three-game sweep of Kansas City at home, and the Red Sox have now won seven of their last eight games.

It will require a massive second half-effort to erase the rough first half the Red Sox endured, going 43-52 before the All-Star break. Boston finds itself in fourth place in the division, staring up at the Orioles.

Red Sox manager John Farrell said divisional series at this juncture of the season carry significance.

"Given where we are right now, yes," Farrell said. "That's not to add any pressure. That's to say that there's some additional significance to the games when you play the teams ahead of you."

The Blue Jays took two of three against the Rangers at the Rogers Centre this weekend. Toronto is tied with New York for second place in the AL East, and Boston is 4 1/2 games behind them.

The Blue Jays' Drew Hutchison and the Red Sox's John Lackey will take the hill at Rogers Centre to open a four-game set on Monday.

Hutchison started 19 games in the first half, and he posted a 4.16 ERA in 110 1/3 innings with 100 strikeouts. He allowed six runs in his last outing against the Rays for his eighth loss. The right-hander faced Boston on May 21. He beat the Red Sox, surrendering one run on six hits in 5 2/3 innings.

Lackey enters Monday with a 3.79 ERA and a 10-6 record. His 8.0 strikeout-per-nine-innings ratio is the highest he's posted since 2005.

Lackey last threw on July 11 in an 8-3 win against the Astros. He gave up two runs in six innings. The solid start came after a string of rocky outings in which he allowed five earned runs or more in three consecutive starts from late June into July.

This will be Lackey's first matchup against Toronto this season.

Red Sox: Holt continues to produce
Boston utility man Brock Holt continued to prove he deserves a spot in the lineup with another productive series against the Royals.

Holt finished 4-for-13 against Kansas City while playing right field, center field, second base, third base and shortstop during the series.

His stat line versus the Royals looked almost pedestrian compared to what he did against the Astros in the previous series. Holt churned out 10 hits in the three-game series, including a five-hit outburst in the finale.

Holt now holds a six-game hitting streak and a .326 batting average atop the Red Sox's lineup.

Blue Jays: Cabrera sacks Rangers
Toronto outfielder Melky Cabrera keyed the Blue Jays' 9-6 win on Sunday with a tie-breaking, go-ahead home run in the seventh inning, then a two-run single in the eighth to provide some much-needed insurance.

Cabrera had his fingerprints all over the series, finishing 7-for-13 with a double, a homer and three RBIs in the three games. He collected six hits in the final two games, both Blue Jays wins.

Since Edwin Encarnacion hit the disabled list, the offensive onus has fallen on Cabrera. Toronto inserted Cabrera into the three-hole, pushing Bautista back to cleanup.

Worth noting
• Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos said he'd like to use right-hander Brandon Morrow in some capacity this season. Morrow is on the 60-day disabled list with a torn tendon sheath in his right index finger, but he'll head to the team's training complex in Florida this weekend to continue his rehabilitation.

• David Ross clubbed a two-run home run off Kansas City starter Yordano Ventura in the team's 6-0 win. He now has four home runs in his last 10 games.

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