The Red Sox have done just about all they could this year with seven games left in the regular season. A day after clinching a playoff berth, Boston secured the American League East crown for the first time since 2007 on Friday night with a 6-3 victory over Toronto.
However, heading into the second game of a three-game set against the Blue Jays on Saturday at Fenway Park, the Red Sox still have something valuable to play for.
At 94-61, Boston owns the best record in baseball. If the Red Sox can hold off the Tigers and A's for best mark in the AL, they'll enter the postseason with home-field advantage throughout.
The final nine days of the season also give the Red Sox a chance to fine-tune themselves for October. That includes starting pitcher Clay Buchholz, who will take the mound Saturday.
Buchholz missed three months with a bursa sac injury but returned to the rotation Sept. 10. The 29-year-old right-hander has yet to surrender an earned run in two starts (11 innings) since coming back.
Although Buchholz, who will make two more starts before the playoffs, has been sharp, his command has been slightly off. He has a chance to correct that in the next week while also continuing to build momentum.
"Yeah, you know, that start in Tampa, that was the first time in a long time," Buchholz said. "Just to run back out there, two starts in a row, that's what I wanted to do. That's where I want to be. It couldn't be any better."
On the other side, the Blue Jays are playing out the remainder of the season before closing the book on their 2013 campaign.
Mark Buehrle, who is set to be back in Toronto in 2014, will make his 32nd start of the season Saturday. For the most part, Buehrle has been solid in his last eight starts, giving up two runs or fewer in seven of them.
The one start in which Buehrle allowed more than two runs in that stretch came Sept. 10, when he surrendered eight earned on 12 hits and a walk in just four innings against the Angels.
Buehrle wasn't at his best during his last start either, but he managed to limit the Orioles to two earned runs in five innings before giving in to a high pitch count.
"The guys that survive the game for a long time and have a lot of success ... they figure it out [without their best stuff], they have guts, they will themselves to win, and get some big outs," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said about Buehrle. "Everybody can't do that, but he's one of the guys that can."
Red Sox: Victorino could start Saturday
Dealing with a jammed right thumb, Shane Victorino didn't start Friday for a second straight game. He entered the game in the ninth, replacing Jackie Bradley in center field. It's possible Victorino could be in the starting lineup Saturday.
"He was originally in the lineup and then after going down and hitting in the cage earlier today, there's still a little bit of soreness in that thumb," Boston manager John Farrell said. "We're trying to find the right construction of a pad for that. Went through some adjustments with the pad, went back down to hit, felt great, tried to talk his way back into the lineup, but felt like it was probably the right thing to keep him out for another day."
• Center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury took a step toward returning from a compression fracture in his right foot by returning to baseball activities Friday. Although there's no timetable, it's likely he returns to action before the end of the regular season.
Blue Jays: Rasmus exits Friday's loss early
In the most recent case of bad luck for Colby Rasmus, the center fielder left Firday's game after being hit in the left eye by an errant warmup throw before the bottom of the first inning. After being struck, Rasmus dropped to the ground before being attended to by Blue Jays trainers and exiting the game. He was sent to a local hospital.
"He's in getting a CT scan right now, we'll see what happens," Toronto manager John Gibbons said after the game. "It got him right in the eye."
Rasmus recently returned from a month on the disabled list with a strained oblique Sept. 13. He later missed a game because of general soreness. In five games since his return from the oblique injury -- he didn't get an at-bat Friday -- Rasmus hit four homers and drove in six runs while batting .353 (6-for-17).
• Friday marked the 39th time the Red Sox have forced an opposing starter to exit before the fifth inning, the most in the Majors.
• The Blue Jays are just 26-42 against the AL East.
• By already winning 25 more games than last season, the Red Sox have marked their biggest turnaround since the 1946 team picked up 33 more wins than the '45 squad.
Jeremy Warnemuende is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.