Red Sox hope to clinch division vs. Astros (Sep 29, 2017)


BOSTON — One year and one day ago, Doug Fister made his final start of the season for the Houston Astros.

On Friday, he will be on the mound for the Red Sox with a chance to beat his former team and clinch an American League East championship for Boston in the process.

The Red Sox (92-67) would wrap up the division with a win against the Astros on Friday or a New York Yankees loss to the Toronto Blue Jays. Boston leads by three games with three remaining.

Houston (99-60) extended its winning streak to four with a 12-2 rout of Boston on Thursday in the opener of the teams’ four-game, regular-season-ending series at Fenway Park.

The Astros locked up the AL West title Sept. 17 but are still in contention for the best record in the league, trailing the Cleveland Indians by one game.

Depending on how the final weekend plays out, Houston could host Boston in the AL Division Series.

“We need to get our guys ready for the playoffs. We may play these guys (the Red Sox), we might not,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. “If the weekend presents itself where it’s a little clearer picture for us or for them or for anybody else, then maybe things change.”

Fister (5-8, 4.87 ERA) had an unremarkable season with the Astros in 2016, going 12-13 with a 4.64 ERA. It wasn’t enough to earn him an invitation back to Houston for the 2017 season.

Instead, Fister wound up opening the year out of work before pitching for the Los Angeles Angels’ Triple-A Salt Lake affiliate in mid-June. The Red Sox claimed him off waivers on June 23, and he became an important stopgap in the rotation as ace southpaw David Price battled injuries.

After a string of four consecutive quality starts, Fister has fallen back to earth in his three starts since, allowing 14 runs over his past 11 1/3 innings.

“We can put ourselves in a corner early and fight back,” Fister said after tossing 5 1/3 innings of three-run ball in a no-decision against the Cincinnati Reds on Sunday. “If we need a touchdown, the boys can put up a touchdown.”

Fister is 1-0 with a 2.77 ERA in two career starts against Houston. At Fenway Park this season, the right-hander is 3-6 with a 4.93 ERA in nine appearances (eight starts).

Carlos Beltran is a smoking 5-for-11 (.455) with one home run and three RBIs lifetime versus Fister. Josh Reddick is 5-for-17 (.294) with one RBI and Jose Altuve is 3-for-4 with an RBI against him.

Fister will be opposed by Charlie Morton (13-7, 3.63 ERA), who aims to extend his career high in victories and continue a dominant stretch over his past 11 starts.

In that span, the right-hander is 6-3 with a 3.00 ERA and 76 strikeouts in 66 innings, allowing more than three earned runs in a start only once.

Morton threw five innings of scoreless, four-hit ball with six strikeouts in his lone career start against the Red Sox on Sept. 16, 2014, as a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates. He has never pitched at Fenway Park.

Boston designated hitter Hanley Ramirez is 1-for-13 with an RBI and a pair of walks against Morton.