The Boston Red Sox headed north of the border to face the Toronto Blue Jays in a midweek series. The Jays had righty Marcus Stroman on the mound, while the Red Sox sent out lefty Brian Johnson, who replaced Eduardo Rodriguez – currently on paternity leave.
After Stroman sat the Red Sox down in order with just 10 pitches, right-handed-hitting Kevin Pillar welcomed Johnson back to MLB (he pitched 4.1 innings for the Sox on July 21, 2015) by hitting a leadoff double to the opposite field. Johnson was then able to strike Jose Bautista out in 11 pitches, but Kendrys Morales drove Pillar home with a line-drive single to left field. Troy Tulowitzki moved Morales to second with a infield single tapped to third baseman Pablo Sandoval, who was unable to make the tough, charging play needed to retire the Blue Jays shortstop. Justin Smoak drove Morales home on a double over the head of center fielder Andrew Benintendi, giving the Blue Jays an early 2-0 lead. With men on second and third, catcher Russell Martin ground to second baseman Marco Hernandez, who gunned Tulo out at home while Smoak advanced to third and Martin reached on the fielder’s choice. Johnson was then able to strike out Steve Pearce to end the 35-pitch first inning with the Red Sox facing a two-run deficit.
After Stroman tossed another scoreless inning despite two baserunners, Johnson loaded the bases with one out in the second inning on an intentional walk of Bautista. However, the lefty was able to record the final two outs with a Morales strikeout and a Tulowitzki liner to right field.
The Blue Jays righty started the top of the third by striking out Marco Hernandez. The Red Sox then put together a string of three singles in a row by Bogaerts, Benintendi, and Mookie Betts, with the last single scoring Bogaerts from second. Betts advanced to second base on the failed attempt to throw Benintendi out at third. Following a Hanley Ramirez strikeout, Mitch Moreland hit an opposite-field single that scored both Benintendi and Betts. Stroman then got Chris Young to pop out to second base to end the inning with the Red Sox up 3-2.
The lead didn’t last long, however, as Justin Smoak laced a line drive over the left-center field wall for a solo shot on the first pitch of the bottom of the third. Johnson would keep the score at 3-3 by retiring the next three batters, including a strikeout of Martin.
Sandoval led off the top of the fourth with a single to right field, but was erased from the basepaths when he was caught stealing. The Blue Jays righty then gave up a Christian Vazquez single before striking out Hernandez and retiring Bogaerts via a grounder to second base.
Benintendi led off the top of the fifth on a soft grounder to Stroman for the first out. Betts then hit a single through the hole on the left side of the infield, scoring on a Ramirez double off the right field wall. Moreland drove Ramirez home with his 10th double of the young season, giving Boston a 5-3 lead. Stroman was then able to retire Young before manager John Gibbons came out to take the ball and call for lefty Aaron Loup. Stroman lasted just 4 ⅔ innings, surrendering five runs on 11 hits and a walk while striking out four.
Loup was unable to get the job done against Sandoval, who picked up his first right-handed hit of the season with a ground-ball single up the middle to score Moreland and give the Red Sox a 6-3 lead. Righty Dominic Leone then replaced Loup, and the righty retired Vazquez on a grounder to short to end the inning.
After Johnson retired Tulowitzki and Smoak on back-to-back groundouts, Martin crushed an 87 mph fastball to deep left center for a solo shot. Pearce then flied out to right field to end the fifth inning with the score at 6-4 Boston.
After Leone pitched a perfect top of the sixth, Heath Hembree entered the game to replace Johnson. The lefty allowed four runs over five innings, giving up seven hits and three walks while striking out six. Hembree coughed up a leadoff single by Darwin Barney before retiring Travis and Pillar. The righty reliever then walked Bautista before getting Morales to ground out to shortstop Xander Bogaerts.
Joe Smith replaced Leone to start the seventh inning and was greeted by a Mookie Betts leadoff home run that increased the Boston lead to 7-4. Smith was then able to retire the side including back-to-back strikeouts of Moreland and Young.
Hembree remained in the game to begin the bottom of the seventh, and allowed a Tulowitzki single to begin the inning. Smoak then ground into a forceout which erased Tulo. After Martin struck out, Bogaerts had a chance to end the inning on a soft grounder, but the ball went under the shortstop’s glove to keep the inning alive. Hembree took things into his own hands as he made a great play on a slow dribbler down the first-base line, throwing Barney out at first.
Sandoval led off the eighth inning with a single against new pitcher Ryan Tepera, and was moved to second base on a Vazquez soft grounder to third base. Hernandez then walked to reach base for the first time in the game before Bogaerts struck out on three pitches for the second out of the inning. Benintendi hit an automatic double, driving Sandoval home and putting Hernandez on third base. It was Benintendi’s 10th RBI in just his 14th game of the season.
The Benintendi double chased Tepera from the game and Gibbons turned to righty Danny Barnes to keep the score at 8-4. The reliever got the job done as Betts popped out to catcher Russell Martin to end the top of the eighth.
Kevin Pillar hit his third double of the day off of new reliever Fernando Abad after the lefty retired Travis on a liner to second base. Pillar would move to third base on a long fly ball to right field from Bautista. Farrell then called for righty Matt Barnes to get the final four outs of the game. The righty retired Morales on a bounding grounder down the first-base line that Moreland took care of himself.
In the ninth inning, both teams left their respective Barnes in the game. The Blue Jays Barnes allowed a four-pitch, two-out Chris Young walk, but retired Sandoval on a grounder to second that required a nice play by Travis for the third out.
The Red Sox Barnes also surrendered a two-out walk to Martin, who advanced to second via defensive indifference. The runner scored on a single by Pearce, and then pinch-hitter Ezequiel Carrera made the game really interesting with a two-run shot to whittle the Red Sox lead down to 8-7. However, the Red Sox righty was able to sit down Pillar on a soft liner to shortstop to end the game.
The Red Sox and Blue Jays will play game two of the three-game series tonight at 7:07 PM, with Boston sending reigning Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello to the mound while Toronto counters with lefty Francisco Liriano.