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Happ's struggles squander a pair of HRs

MLB.com @gregorMLB

BOSTON -- J.A. Happ's days in Toronto appear to be coming to an end, but unfortunately for the Blue Jays, his final run with the team has been anything but pretty.

Happ struggled again on Thursday night, but this time it was mostly the defense that let him down in a 6-4 loss to the Red Sox. The veteran lefty allowed five runs -- all unearned -- in an alarming 46-pitch fourth inning that ultimately resulted in Mookie Betts chasing him from the game with a grand slam over the Green Monster.

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BOSTON -- J.A. Happ's days in Toronto appear to be coming to an end, but unfortunately for the Blue Jays, his final run with the team has been anything but pretty.

Happ struggled again on Thursday night, but this time it was mostly the defense that let him down in a 6-4 loss to the Red Sox. The veteran lefty allowed five runs -- all unearned -- in an alarming 46-pitch fourth inning that ultimately resulted in Mookie Betts chasing him from the game with a grand slam over the Green Monster.

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An error by Devon Travis and a popup that bounced off first baseman Justin Smoak's glove in foul territory were major factors in the lopsided frame. The Red Sox only had two hard-hit balls in the inning -- the Betts grand slam and a single by Xander Bogaerts -- but the way things have been going for Happ, that was enough to dictate the outcome of the game.

Video: Must C Crushed: Betts concludes 13-pitch AB with slam

"You can't give the Boston Red Sox six outs in an inning," an uncharacteristically frustrated Happ said after the game. "I felt good tonight. I felt like my stuff was sharp. I don't know if they got a ball out of the infield before that homer, so that's tough to take. It has been a tough week, but we'll move forward. I think it easily could have gone the other way, but it didn't, so we have to bounce back."

Happ has allowed at least five runs in each of his last three starts, and although the first two were mostly on him, there will be few critics of his start vs. Boston. Happ's velocity remains strong, and during the 13-pitch at-bat to Betts, he routinely hit 94 mph and even topped out at 95.7. There also haven't been any health scares, but it remains to be seen how the dip in production will affect his value leading into the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.

Despite the recent struggles, Happ's trade value should hold strong over the next couple of weeks, assuming good health. His stock likely won't go any higher, much to the Blue Jays' dismay, but he remains one of the most sought-after starting pitchers on the market. Teams should be expected to take a look at his overall body of work instead of the recent three-start stretch, and scouts who were in attendance on Thursday night will know that a lot of the issues were related to the defense behind him.

Even so, Happ cannot be entirely left off the hook for his outing vs. Boston. Travis' error occurred during the third at-bat of the inning; Happ faced four additional batters before his night came to an end. In the crucial at-bat vs. Betts, Happ got ahead, 1-2, but six consecutive foul balls followed, and the Red Sox slugger worked the count full before unloading on a 95-mph four-seam fastball for his 23rd home run of the year.

"I felt like my delivery and my mechanics were as good as they've been in a while," Happ said. "Up until that point, even including that point, I felt pretty sharp. It was just a strange game, man."

Teoscar Hernandez and Kendrys Morales each homered, but other than those two at-bats, the Blue Jays were not able to generate much of anything off lefty David Price, who allowed the three runs on six hits while striking out eight and not issuing a walk over 6 2/3 innings. Toronto has lost six of its last seven divisional games and is 13-23 against the American League East this season compared with a 29-27 record against all other teams in the Majors.

Video: TOR@BOS: Morales cranks a solo homer to center field

"Some good things happened, just [trouble in] that one inning, really," said manager John Gibbons, who praised Travis for his four-hit game. "[The Red Sox are] tough, they can do so many things. They can run you into the ground. Great defense. Defense wins. I don't care what sport you're playing. If you don't play great defense, you're not going to win. It's that simple."

Video: TOR@BOS: Travis tallies 4 singles against the Red Sox

SOUND SMART
Betts' grand slam was the first hit in an at-bat of 13 pitches or more since Gary Scott did so for the Cubs on the 13th pitch against Philadelphia's Kyle Abbott on April 20, 1992. It also was the longest at-bat that has ended in a home run by any Red Sox player since at least 1988. It was the third grand slam allowed by Happ this season and the sixth of his career.

Hernandez's two-run homer in the first inning left his bat at 112.2 mph, for the hardest-hit homer of his career; it also tied for his hardest-hit ball of any kind. The projected distance of 434 feet was the second longest of Hernandez's young career.

Video: TOR@BOS: Hernandez slugs a homer 434 feet vs. Price

MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
A replay review loomed large in Boston's five-run fourth. With one out and a runner on first, Brock Holt hit a grounder to shortstop that initially looked like it might turn into an inning-ending double play. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. tossed the ball to Travis at second for what appeared to be the second out, but the throw to first base was late. Boston manager Alex Cora asked for a review at second, and following a lengthy delay, the call was overturned, because Travis stepped off the bag before he caught the throw. Travis ultimately was charged with an error; all five runs that later scored were unearned.

Video: TOR@BOS: Bogaerts safe at second following review

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
There was at least one nice defensive play by the Blue Jays in the fourth. With one out and the bases loaded, Sandy Leon hit a slow chopper toward short. Gurriel charged the ball, and in one fluid motion using only his glove, flipped it to Aledmys Diaz to record the out. Unfortunately for Toronto, that should have been the third out, but the previous Travis error meant it was only out No. 2 for the Blue Jays. A long inning was still to come.

"Great play, flipping it to third base," Gibbons said. "He doesn't make that play, that inning really could spiral. He's doing a nice job."

Video: TOR@BOS: Gurriel glove flips to third for a forceout

HE SAID IT
"Normally you don't leave him in there that long, out of precautionary reasons. ... You're not going to see many innings like that. I don't know if I can even describe it. The call at second base, the popup down the line, the little nibbler in front of the plate. It was one of those innings. It cost him, and it cost us." -- Gibbons, on Happ's 46-pitch fourth inning

UP NEXT
Rookie lefty Ryan Borucki (0-1, 2.25 ERA) will take the mound when the Blue Jays continue their four-game series against the Red Sox on Friday night, with first pitch scheduled for 7:10 ET at Fenway Park. Borucki has yet to allow more than two earned runs in any of his three career starts, and two of those outings came against two of the top American League offenses in the Yankees and Astros. Boston, which is set to counter with right-hander Rick Porcello (11-3, 3.58), will offer yet another test.

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

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