TORONTO -- The Red Sox appear to be heating up at the same time as the Blue Jays have cooled down, and the gap between first and last place in the American League East continues to get even bigger. The last-place Blue Jays now trail the Red Sox by 8
TORONTO -- The Red Sox appear to be heating up at the same time as the Blue Jays have cooled down, and the gap between first and last place in the American League East continues to get even bigger. The last-place Blue Jays now trail the Red Sox by 8 1/2 games.
Jackie Bradley Jr. and Dustin Pedroia each had an early RBI double as Boston rolled into town and spoiled Canada Day with a 7-1 victory over Toronto on Saturday afternoon. Xander Bogaerts drove in three runs, and leadoff hitter Mookie Betts walked three times and scored three runs, with the Red Sox winning for the fifth time over their past six games.
Halfway through the season, the Red Sox are 46-35 and on pace for 92 wins.
"You say we've had a rocky road, and we're in first place," said lefty Chris Sale, who turned in another dominant effort for the win. "It's going to be fun when we get going. It says a lot about our guys on our team. We've battled through some things scheduling-wise, injury-wise and things like that. When we start putting it together, it's gonna be a scary club."
Sale continued to make his case for being named the AL starting pitcher at the upcoming All-Star Game by tossing seven scoreless innings. Sale scattered four hits and walked one while striking out 11. He has now struck out at least 10 in 11 of his starts this season, and Sale has lost just once since the end of April, with a season ERA that sits at 2.61.
• Sale's 1st half ranks with Boston greats
While Red Sox manager John Farrell took a one-day leave to watch his son Luke make his Major League debut in Kansas City, bench coach Gary DiSarcina managed the team for the second time this week. This time, he had the luxury of having the ace on the mound.
"It's been an absolute pleasure being around [Sale], his professionalism, he's a great teammate, he gets his work in, and he goes out there and he dominates. Those are pretty good hitters over there that the Blue Jays are throwing out there in that lineup, so for him to do that not just once, but in two games against them, that's very impressive," said DiSarcina, referring to the April 20 game when Sale struck out 13 Blue Jays.
Toronto left-hander Francisco Liriano took the loss after he was charged with five runs on seven hits and three walks over six innings. Liriano allowed a pair of runs during each of the first two innings, and with Sale dominating from start to finish, the Blue Jays were never able to recover. It marked the second time over Liriano's past three starts that he allowed five earned runs.
"Physically I feel great, but I didn't make pitches early in the game," Liriano said. "A couple of mistakes and they found a way to put the ball in play. A couple of mistakes and [I] couldn't throw strikes, get ahead in the count early. I don't know, I didn't make pitches when I needed to."
The Blue Jays have scored four runs or fewer in five consecutive games. Toronto has hit .150 (3-for-20) with runners in scoring position during its current homestand and is coming off a month in which it hit .160 (12-for-75) with RISP at Rogers Centre.
• Blue Jays confident they can make a run
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Leaves 'em stranded: Sale held the Blue Jays' offense in check through the first five innings, but there were some signs of life in the sixth. Russell Martin was hit by a pitch to lead off the frame and advanced to third when Justin Smoak hit a one-out double off the wall in left field. That put a pair of runners in scoring position, but Troy Tulowitzki hit a chopper back to the mound, and Steve Pearce followed with a weak popup to right field. Toronto finished the sixth still without a run, and the club ended the day going 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position and leaving nine men on base.
Early offense: The Red Sox entered play on Saturday having earned come-from-behind victories in each of their past two games, but they made things a little bit easier in the second game of this series. With two outs and a runner on base in the first, Hanley Ramirez hit a double over the head of Pearce in left field. Bradley Jr. followed with a double of his own as two runs came around to score. Boston added two more in the second on a double by Pedroia, and that was more than enough on a day when Sale had everything working.
"It's huge. I haven't even thrown a competitive pitch, and I have a two-run lead," said Sale. "Not only that, but a long game last night, late night, early morning, to jump out like that and tack two more on in the second inning, that's huge."
"Everybody knows who they're facing, and you can't afford to give up too much," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "Lirry today, most of the damage came with two outs. Two-out hits. That's what did us in there. Let this one go and show up again tomorrow."
"He's great. He takes the ball and competes. Obviously the stuff he has, it's overpowering. He's been unbelievable to play behind and just to get to know him as a guy." -- Pedroia on his first few months as Sale's teammate.
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Liriano allowed a pair of runs in the first inning, which increased Toronto's ERA in the first inning to 6.19 this season. That's the second highest total in the AL this season, second to only Boston at 6.33.
By producing his 11th 10-strikeout game of the season, Sale is tied with Pedro Martinez (1999) for the team record for most double-digit K games prior to the All-Star break.
Red Sox: Left-hander Thomas Pomeranz, who has pitched well in his past three starts, gets the call in Sunday's finale of this three-game series. First pitch is scheduled for 1:07 p.m. ET. This is just Pomeranz's second career start at Rogers Centre, and first since 2014.
Blue Jays: Right-hander Joe Biagini (2-7, 4.50) will take the mound for the Blue Jays when this series wraps up on Sunday afternoon. This is expected to be Biagini's final start, with Aaron Sanchez set to return later this week from a blister issue. Biagini is 2-6 with a 4.93 ERA as a starter, and will soon make his way back to the bullpen.
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Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.