BOSTON -- The Blue Jays bent, but they did not break in a pivotal series opener against the division-rival Red Sox at Fenway Park.
Toronto is trying to keep its postseason hopes alive in the days leading up to the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, and Monday night's 4-3 victory over the first-place Red Sox was a small step in that direction. Steve Pearce homered and hit the go-ahead RBI single in the eighth while Kendrys Morales chipped in with a two-run double.
Blue Jays right-hander Marcus Stroman entered the seventh with a three-run lead, but he could not close the door, allowing three unearned runs following his first error of the season. Facing Toronto reliever Dominic Leone, Boston tied the game at 3 on an RBI double by Dustin Pedroia, only to see the visitors bounce back in the eighth.
"It's huge. It's tough to get wins here in Boston," said Stroman, who allowed the three unearned runs on five hits and three walks while striking out five. "Obviously Boston is an unbelievable team, unbelievably tough lineup, one through nine. So to be able to come in here and get the first one, hopefully it gives us a little bit of momentum going into these next few games."
Red Sox lefty Eduardo Rodriguez picked up a no-decision in his first big league start since June 1. Rodriguez missed the previous six weeks with a right knee injury and was rusty early, allowing three runs over the first two innings before settling into a groove. Rodriguez was charged with three runs on six hits and four walks while striking out eight over 5 1/3 innings.
• Farrell pleased with E-Rod's return from DL
"I thought first start back, he had good stuff, good arm strength," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "He held his stuff through the end of the sixth inning. He was able to get a number of swing-and-misses early on. It took him an inning or two to really settle in and command the baseball, but he was in a good position even to get out of the first."
Toronto's win, combined with the Yankees' 4-2 loss to the Twins, allowed the Blue Jays to move within 4 1/2 games of the second American League Wild Card spot. Toronto is eight games back of Boston in the AL East.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
The relay: Toronto appeared to be on the verge of a collapse in the bottom of the seventh. Boston cut the lead to one and had runners on first and second with two outs when Stroman was pulled. Leone entered and his first pitch was a 93-mph fastball that Pedroia hit off the Green Monster in left-center field. The tying run easily came around to score, but Mookie Betts wanted more. He appeared to run through a stop sign at third and was trying to score all the way from first when Kevin Pillar and shortstop Troy Tulowitzki perfectly executed a relay throw. Betts was thrown out by a couple of feet to keep the game tied.
"That's as good of a relay throw as you can make," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "Naturally, that is the ballgame right there. But we've got guys who are good defenders. Tulo is still one of the best in the game. He makes all of the plays. These guys go out there beat up sometimes. People aren't always aware of that, but they're out there playing. It was a good bounce-back day."
"I kind of had it in my mind that if he hits a double, I'm going to score," Betts said. "As I was running, I didn't even see the stop sign. Obviously if I see that I'm going to stop. That's my fault for not looking up."
The daily double: Toronto did not waste any time getting to Rodriguez. In the first, Russell Martin hit a one-out single and then advanced to second on a walk to Justin Smoak. With two outs, Morales came through with a double off the Monster. Martin easily scored, and when the ball bounced away from left fielder Andrew Benintendi, Smoak got waved home as well. Morales has been heating up against lefties with a .354 (17-for-48) mark over his past 23 games.
"It was the fastball command in the first two innings," Rodriguez said. "That was the problem. The pitch I missed to Morales was supposed to be a fastball up and the one to Pearce was supposed to be a backdoor cutter."
"There's definitely some thoughts about trying to shake things up a little bit." -- Farrell, on potential lineup changes
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Pearce has spent parts of six seasons in the AL East, but Monday marked the first time in his career he went deep at Fenway.
"It's historic, so it's nice to get a home run at Fenway, but it's better to get the win," Pearce said. More >
Roberto Osuna picked up save No. 23 with a three-up, three-down ninth. It was his 22nd consecutive save, which is the longest active streak in the Majors. It's also the second longest in Toronto's franchise history.
Home-plate umpire Chris Segal had a scary moment in the top of the first when he was struck by a bat. Josh Donaldson lost the handle on a swing during a follow through, and the bat struck Segal on the side of the head. Segal immediately dropped to one knee as the Red Sox's training staff ran onto the field, but after a brief delay, he remained in the game and umpired all nine innings.
Blue Jays: Left-hander J.A. Happ (3-6, 3.54 ERA) will take the mound for Toronto when the four-game series continues Tuesday at 7:10 p.m. ET at Fenway Park. Happ is coming off a rough outing against the Astros where he allowed six runs (two earned) over four innings, but before that he had tossed five consecutive quality starts.
Red Sox: Lefty Christopher Johnson (2-0, 4.29 ERA) makes his fifth spot start of the season Tuesday in the second game of the series. Johnson earned his first career win in an 8-7 victory over the Blue Jays on April 18.
Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.