Boston Red Sox relief pitcher John Schreiber, right, is congratulated by catcher Christian Vazquez after earning the save in a 5-4 win over the Detroit Tigers last week at Fenway Park. Schreiber has a 0.79 ERA and has kept opponents scoreless in all but one of his 24 appearances this season. AP Photo/Charles Krupa

The Boston Red Sox rolled into Toronto on Sunday night winners of seven in a row, the longest active streak in baseball. They have gone 32-12 since Manager Alex Cora shaved his beard in hopes of sparking his team to life, and have taken the lead in the American League wild card race.

Now they have to figure out a way to beat the teams in their division.

Entering Monday night’s game against the Blue Jays, the Red Sox were 7-14 against the AL East this season. They are 35-17 against everyone else, and 20 of their next 23 games are against Toronto, Tampa Bay and the first-place Yankees.

They will play the first three games of that stretch without two players. Pitcher Tanner Houck and outfielder Jarren Duran came back to Boston after Sunday’s win at Cleveland because they are unvaccinated and are not allowed to play north of the border per Canadian regulations.

The timing couldn’t be much worse. Houck is perfect in six save situations this year, and has solidified Boston’s bullpen since becoming the team’s closer. Now Cora will have to turn to other relievers while Houck waits to rejoin the team Friday in Chicago.

John Schreiber is an obvious choice to close out a tight game at Toronto’s Rogers Centre. He’s been the most important reliever in Cora’s arsenal this year, posting a 0.79 ERA and keeping opponents scoreless in all but one of his 24 appearances.


Not bad for a 28-year old who was let go by the Detroit Tigers prior to last season. Now he’s pitching late innings for the hottest team in baseball, and is throwing harder than ever before.

He was clocked at 97 mph in a game against those same Tigers last week. That caught everyone’s attention, and had people wondering where the increased velocity came from.

“I got into my first spring training here with the Red Sox and I remember looking back at the board and seeing 88 up there on the gun,” Schreiber told me on my “TC & Company” podcast this week. “I was, you know, pretty disappointed. … In the back of my head I was like ‘OK, I need to do a little bit something different here just to be ready for next year.’ I think I did that pretty well. I was ready to go.”

Schreiber worked harder than ever this winter, and the results are showing this summer.

The results of Chaim Bloom’s reconstruction of the Red Sox pitching staff are showing, too. He claimed Schreiber off waivers before last season. He signed Jake Diekman and Matt Strahm, two key late-inning arms, this offseason. He traded for Austin Davis last year.

He has also rebuilt the depth of the team’s starting rotation. Josh Winckowski, one of five players acquired in the Andrew Benintendi deal, is 3-0 with a 2.12 ERA over his last three starts. Nick Pivetta, one of two pitchers acquired for Brandon Workman and Heath Hembree in 2020, has become the ace of the Red Sox staff while Chris Sale and Nathan Eovaldi are on the injured list.


And now Connor Seabold, the other pitcher acquired in that deal, took Houck’s roster spot for the first game in Toronto. Seabold has been one of the best pitchers in Triple-A this season, going 5-1 with a 2.26 ERA with Worcester.

One of the things Bloom was asked to do is to create a model of sustainability for the franchise, to be in a position to contend year after year. They came within two wins of a World Series last year, and after a brutal 10-19 starts the Sox have shot to the top of the wild card standings.

You can’t do that without depth. The Red Sox have leaned on many different players this season. Christian Arroyo and Rob Refsnyder, two players grabbed by the Sox after being released by other teams, impacted the weekend sweep in Cleveland with big at bats.

Now that depth will be tested again because two players chose not to be vaccinated. Per MLB and the MLB Players Association it is their choice. But that choice is putting undue strain on a team that is trying to make another deep playoff run.

It could be an even bigger deal later this season. The Red Sox play their last road series of the year in Toronto from Sept. 30 to Oct. 2. Imagine if that series dictates their playoff hopes? And they have to play without key players? What if they have to go to Toronto in the postseason? Red Sox fans will undoubtedly let the unvaccinated players know what they think about their decision.

Those are questions we’ll answer by the end of the season. For now, the Red Sox are hoping the depth of their current roster allows them to wrap up their best month in years with their first series win against an AL East opponent this season.

Tom Caron is a studio host for the Red Sox broadcast on NESN. His column appears in the Portland Press Herald on Tuesdays.

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