Boston right-hander Garrett Whitlock will start the finale of a four-game series Thursday afternoon as the visiting Red Sox pursue a split with the Toronto Blue Jays.

Whitlock (1-0, 0.66 ERA) will face Toronto right-hander Alek Manoah (3-0, 2.00), who has won his past seven starts dating to last season.

Whitlock needing to make the start is part of the problem for the struggling Red Sox. He is taking the rotation spot of right-hander Tanner Houck, who is unvaccinated for COVID-19 and as a result could not enter Canada.

Moving Whitlock to a starting role was an easy decision, but the problem for Boston was replacing Whitlock’s quality work in relief.

It was evident in the first two games of the series, which Boston lost mostly because of an ineffective bullpen late in the late innings.

Boston bounced back on Wednesday to win the third game of the series 7-1, ending a four-game losing streak behind six strong innings from starter Michael Wacha. Manager Aled Cora rejoined the Red Sox for the first time since testing positive for COVID-19 on Thursday.

The Blue Jays lead the season series between the teams 4-2.

Both starting pitchers for the Thursday game have had success against the opposing team.

Manoah started against Boston twice last season as a rookie, going 1-0 with a 2.45 ERA. The Red Sox hit .221 against him.

Whitlock is 2-0 with a 1.04 ERA in six career relief outings against Toronto. He earned a save against the Blue Jays on April 19, pitching a perfect ninth inning in a 2-1 home victory.

He made his first major league start Saturday against the Tampa Bay Rays in St. Petersburg, Fla., allowing no runs on one hit and no walks while striking out seven in four innings.

He needed only 48 pitches to get 12 outs.

“I try to stay in a rhythm,” Whitlock said. “Obviously, as a pitcher. you try and dictate that and everything. I’m just always trying to attack the zone, and that has kind of been my key.”

There is a question about his eventual role.

“I always say they make those decisions,” Whitlock said. “They get paid for those decisions. That’s not my job to do. I’ll go out there and throw until they come and take the ball away from me.”

Manoah has tossed exactly six innings in each of his three starts this season. He allowed two runs on seven hits and no walks with five strikeouts Saturday in a 3-2 road win over the Houston Astros. He overcame a shaky first inning and retired 16 of his final 20 batters.

“The biggest thing was just being able to go out there and control the game, control the pace and control as much as I can,” Manoah said. “When you’re facing a lineup like that, you’ve got to give and take where you can. So just being able to sit there and control the game after that (first inning) was the biggest thing.”

Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said, “The one thing about that kid is he throws harder when you’re about to take him out. It’s fun to watch. It was almost weird when he gave up the two runs. Like, ‘OK, what just happened?’ But that’s a good lineup, and he’s going to give up runs every once in a while. But he’s been so good and he’s one of the main reasons we won.”

–Field Level Media