BOSTON -- A stout Blue Jays bullpen was up to the task for seven-plus innings Thursday afternoon, helping Toronto escape Fenway Park with an 8-6 win over the Red Sox and a split of the four-game series.Following a rough 1 2/3-inning performance from starter Francisco Liriano, the 'pen inherited a
BOSTON -- A stout Blue Jays bullpen was up to the task for seven-plus innings Thursday afternoon, helping Toronto escape Fenway Park with an 8-6 win over the Red Sox and a split of the four-game series.
Following a rough 1 2/3-inning performance from starter Francisco Liriano, the 'pen inherited a 3-1 deficit in the second. Right-hander Dominic Leone calmed the storm, striking out four in 2 1/3 scoreless innings.
"Anytime you get the starter out early and get them deep in their 'pen, it's a good thing," Dustin Pedroia said. "Their 'pen just executed. They threw the ball well and a couple of guys went multiple innings, so you tip your hat to them. We just didn't get enough runs."
Outside of a three-run homer from Pedroia in the seventh, the Blue Jays' bullpen kept the Red Sox off the board for six of seven innings.
"I've been through this before, a lot of guys have been through this before," said Leone, who is part of a bullpen that leads the American League in innings. "Maybe not as much usage, but it's kind of getting to the grind point now. Getting into the middle of July, [non-waiver] Trade Deadline is coming up [July 31], August is coming up. You can see that push time coming and it almost gives you another life, another energy to keep going and keep grinding through."
Toronto took its final lead with a four-run third, propelled by a sun-induced Brock Holt misplay that should have allowed the Red Sox to get out of the inning unscathed.
"Any ball in the air, any ball on the ground is a dangerous play no matter what it is," Red Sox starter Doug Fister said. "The ball in the air today was a tough one in the sun. Our sun over here is sometimes right overhead and it makes an easy catch really difficult, and anything is a threat."
Justin Smoak showed off why he was an All-Star for the Blue Jays, blasting two solo home runs to bring his season tally to a career-high 26. He also hit an RBI single in the sixth and went 3-for-5 with three RBIs, setting a career high with 62.
• In breakout year, Smoak sets another mark
Fister's last start before moving into the bullpen was one he'd like to forget. The righty allowed seven hits, four walks and six earned runs in 4 1/3 innings. Fister was all over the place with his command, throwing several balls in the dirt and only throwing 53 strikes out of his 100 pitches.
"The strike zone began to elude him," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "This is one of the rare games that the number of walks issued today is a rarity. ... It came down to consistent strikes and working ahead in the count. Like I said, a rare day that we issue that number of walks."
The loss ends an exhausting and lengthy home stretch for the Red Sox. Over a seven-day span at Fenway, Boston played 85 innings, including a day-night doubleheader Sunday and two extra-inning affairs.
"Just a lot of weird games and crazy plays the whole homestand," Pedroia said. "It was just a weird stretch we were on. Some of the bounces went our way and some of them didn't, that was it."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Holt fumbles in the sun: With the bases loaded and two outs in the third, Steve Pearce hit a popup into shallow center field that should have ended the inning. Holt, who made a diving grab just batters earlier to save a run, backtracked into the outfield to make the grab, but seemingly lost the ball in the sun and let it drop out of his glove. The mistake -- which was ruled a hit by the official scorer -- allowed Russell Martin and Josh Donaldson to score and tie the game at 3. The next batter, Ryan Goins, gave Toronto a 5-3 lead with a two-run single into left field.
"If you take the sun out of the play, you catch the ball a million times out of a million," Holt said about his misplay.
Pedroia's hot streak blazes on: Pedroia might have a knack for the role of designated hitter. In the seventh inning of a 7-3 ballgame, Pedroia blasted a three-run shot well over the Green Monster to cut the Blue Jays' lead to one. The blast was his second in three days and gave him 11 RBIs for the homestand.
"Just try to get a good pitch to hit and don't miss it," he said. "There's no secrets. All the pitchers we face now, they've all got good stuff, so you're only going to get one pitch to hit, so you better make sure you square it up." More >
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The Blue Jays scored eight or more runs for the ninth time and are 8-1 in those games.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
In the first, Donaldson hit a ball deep into right field over the head of Mookie Betts, scoring Martin from second. Donaldson tried to leg out a double, but was called out sliding into the bag. Blue Jays manager John Gibbons challenged the call. The play was overturned, giving Donaldson a double. The review lasted one minute and 20 seconds.
WELCOME TO THE MAJORS
While the Red Sox will want to quickly move past this defeat, it will be a day forever etched in the memory of reliever Kyle Martin. The right-hander, who was called up Wednesday to add bullpen depth, made his Major League debut in the seventh. He walked one and struck out one in a scoreless inning.
"It was amazing to walk through the gates," Martin said. "I told myself not to look at the stands, but I had to look around. It was kind of surreal."
Blue Jays: The Blue Jays will open a three-game series against the Indians on Friday at 7:05 p.m. ET at Progressive Field in a rematch of last year's American League Championship Series. Right-hander Marco Estrada (4-6, 5.33 ERA) will take the mound as he tries to turn his season around. Since June 1, Estrada is 0-4 with a 9.50 ERA, allowing 38 earned runs on 52 hits in 36 innings.
Red Sox: Boston will look to start its six-game road trip with a bang Friday, as left-handed ace Chris Sale will take the mound for the American League East leaders against the Angels in Anaheim. First pitch is 10:05 p.m. ET. Sale (11-4, 2.59 ERA) threw a gem in his last outing, striking out 13 Yankees over 7 2/3 innings in a no-decision Saturday. The lanky southpaw is 5-0 in eight appearances (six starts) against the Angels.
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Evan Chronis is a reporter for MLB.com based in Boston and covered the Red Sox on Thursday.
Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.