Jose Bautista blasted home runs number 17 and 18 and collected four RBI on the day to lead Toronto over Boston 6-2 Saturday. The win snapped a four-game win streak by Boston and denied the Red Sox an opportunity to be the first American League team to reach 50 wins before the All Star break. Boston stands at 49-34, holding a 7.5 game lead over Toronto at 40-40.
Toronto grabbed an early lead in the first by scratching out a run on a walk to Bautista followed by a stolen base, a fielders’ choice and an RBI single from Adam Lind that scored Edwin Encanacion.
The Blue Jays pushed their lead to 2-0 in the top of the 6th when Bautista tagged Doubront for a solo home run over The Monster for his 17th round-tripper of the year.
Boston was held in check for five innings by Toronto starter Esmil Rodgers making his first career start against Boston.
The Red Sox likewise came away frustrated in the bottom of the sixth, failing to score a run while collecting a double and two singles. Shane Victorino began the frame with a double, but was erased at the plate on a laser throw from Batista on Dustin Pedroia’s follow-up single. David Ortiz followed with a base hit but both Boston runners were stranded when reliever Darren Rodgers got both Mike Napoli and Daniel Nava to fan to close out the threat.
Boston finally broke through in the bottom of the seventh to knot the game at 2-2 on Shane Victorino’s two RBI single after Salty, Iglesias and Jonathan Diaz tagged a pair of Toronto relievers for hits. Boston stranded Ellsbury and Victorino in what could have been a big inning when Pedroia flied out to shallow right and Ortiz struck out with runners at first and second.
Junichi Tazawa came on in the seventh and was ineffective, giving up a leadoff single to Jose Reyes and giving away the 2-2 tie on Bautista’s second home run of the game to make it Toronto 4-2. Tazawa took the loss in relief.
Toronto added a pair of insurance runs in the top of the ninth on RBI singles from Reyes and Bautista to make it 6-2. Bautista was thrown out at third trying to stretch his RBI double into a triple when it rattled around in the left field corner on Daniel Nava.
Boston failed to answer in the eighth, recording three straight strike outs at the hand of Toronto reliever Steve Delabar, who picked up the win in relief.
Doubront finished the night with another quality start, going six and two-thirds innings, giving up five hits, 2 runs, both earned, while walking three and striking out five.
Likewise, Toronto starter Esmil Rodgers did not figure in the decision despite a quality outing, going six innings, giving up two runs on six hits.
The Red Sox and Blue Jays close out the four-game series with a Sunday afternoon affair starting at 1:05. Ryan Dempster will look to build on his positive last start and improve on his season’s slate of 5-8 while matching up against Toronto southpaw Mark Buehrle who comes in following a loss and stands at 4-5 on the season.
On the medical front, Stephen Drew, who sustained a hamstring injury Friday night while enjoying a hot game at the plate, is expected to get a “few days” off and is currently listed as day-to-day. Both Clay Buchholz and Franklin Morales, nursing tender arms/shoulders, are expected to begin light throwing Sunday or early next week. Jon Lester, who jammed a hip late in the game in Thursday night’s win over the Blue Jays, is on a normal regime and is not expected to miss his next start against San Diego following an off day Monday, July 1.
With the trading deadline less than a month away, do not be surprised to see the Red Sox pull the trigger on a deal or two. Boston’s minor league system is stocked with quality players and the Red Sox could be searching for roster help at third base, the starting rotation and another reliever to make their second half run following the All-Star break July 15-18. Starter Cliff Lee, third-baseman Michael Young and the familiar name of closer Jonathan Paplebon, all of the Phillies, have popped up on rumor radar more than once in the past week or so. Boston has to balance the health of its current starting rotation, infield depth with Drew injured and Will Middlebrooks dispatched to Triple-A, and the durability of Koji Uehara as closer with a shaky Andrew Bailey and a lost Joel Hanrahhan, against what might be available on the trade market.
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- Red Sox-Blue Jays Live: Jon Lester on the Bump As Sox Kick Off Four-Game Set With Red-Hot Jays (nesn.com)