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HOU@BOS: Dempster strikes out 10 over six innings

The Red Sox matched a club record with 18 wins in April. They began their May in similarly dominant fashion.

After cruising to a 10-1 win over the Blue Jays on Wednesday night, the Red Sox will look to take their seventh win in nine series this season as the clubs finish their three-game set on Thursday at Rogers Centre.

Boston has done it lately without Shane Victorino, who has missed the last week with lower back inflammation, averaging 7.5 runs.

"The guys have stepped in," said Victorino, who hopes to be back for Friday's game against Texas, though he could be placed on the 15-day disabled list. "[Daniel] Nava, [Mike] Carp -- guys who have got the playing time have done a great job. It's been fun, I've had my pom-poms cheering for 'em."

On the mound for the Red Sox on Thursday will be 35-year-old Ryan Dempster, who has been striking out more batters this season than at any point in his career. Dempster is fanning 12.9 batters per nine innings. His previous high was in 2005, when he struck out 8.7 batters per nine innings with the Cubs.

"Just a coincidence," Dempster said of the strikeouts. "The whole game is built off confidence. If you feel good, feel good about yourself and feel good about your stuff, you're going to go out there ready to get outs."

Dempster has never pitched at Rogers Centre.

The Blue Jays, without injured shortstop Jose Reyes, have struggled to find their groove.

Their offense ranks 28th in the Majors with a .231 batting average, while their pitching staff is 27th in the bigs with a 4.52 ERA.

"It's a tough division," said Toronto infielder Mark DeRosa, who called a team meeting Sunday to try to spark the clubhouse. "It's a tough AL East division, but there's no reason we can't get as hot as cold as we've been."

J.A. Happ will be on the mound for the Blue Jays on Thursday. The lefty has been using much more of his fastball and changeup this season, leaving his curveball and slider as reserve options as he's severely cut his walk rate.

Happ, who walked almost five batters per nine innings in 2010 and '11, has yet to walk more than three batters in a start this season. In 28 innings, Happ has 24 strikeouts to 11 walks with a 3.86 ERA.

Red Sox: Drew knocks first homer
• Jose Iglesias kept the seat warm at shortstop early on this season, hitting .450 before being demoted to Triple-A Pawtucket, where he's hitting .242. When Stephen Drew returned from a concussion, his bat was slow to come around.

Drew launched his first home run of the season Wednesday night, finishing 3-for-5 at the plate with two RBIs. It was the first multi-hit game of the season for Drew, who has seven RBIs in his last six games.

Blue Jays: Dickey and Johnson ailing, but on track
• Good news came back after a pair of MRIs revealed no major damage for starters R.A. Dickey and Josh Johnson.

Dickey, who has dealt with lingering back and neck soreness, has no structural damage and should start Saturday against the Mariners.

"Just a little inflammation, nothing bad. He threw a side out there and feels very good," manager John Gibbons said. "Even yesterday, before he had it, he said he was feeling much better."

Johnson, forced to miss his last outing with tightness in his right triceps, is on track to pitch Friday.

Worth noting
• Boston first baseman Mike Napoli hit a pair of home runs and drove in four runs Wednesday to retake the Major League RBI lead with 31.

• Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz collected a hit Wednesday to extend his hitting streak to 22 games, dating back to last season.

• No current Blue Jays player has homered off Dempster. Edwin Encarnacion is just 1-for-11 lifetime off the Red Sox starter.

• Andrew Bailey will continue to serve as the Red Sox's closer, even with Joel Hanrahan's activation from the 15-day disabled list Tuesday.

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