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Blue Jays held in check as Estrada struggles

MLB.com @gregorMLB

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays' struggling rotation has received most of the attention lately, but Toronto's lineup hasn't exactly lived up to its end of the bargain, either.

Toronto's lineup was held in check yet again on Saturday afternoon as former Blue Jays pitcher David Price returned from a carpal tunnel issue to yield just a pair of runs over 5 1/3 innings. Price allowed five hits and walked three in the Blue Jays' 5-2 loss to the Red Sox on Saturday afternoon at Rogers Centre.

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TORONTO -- The Blue Jays' struggling rotation has received most of the attention lately, but Toronto's lineup hasn't exactly lived up to its end of the bargain, either.

Toronto's lineup was held in check yet again on Saturday afternoon as former Blue Jays pitcher David Price returned from a carpal tunnel issue to yield just a pair of runs over 5 1/3 innings. Price allowed five hits and walked three in the Blue Jays' 5-2 loss to the Red Sox on Saturday afternoon at Rogers Centre.

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It has been pretty simple for the Blue Jays so far this year. When they score more than five runs, they are a perfect 17-0. When they score four runs or fewer, the club's record drops to 4-19 -- and lately, a lot of games have been falling into the latter category. Toronto has been held to four runs or fewer in all but three of its past 11 games.

Video: BOS@TOR: Gibbons on Estrada's start, streaky hitting

"That's going to happen, that's part of it," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said of the offensive struggles. "There are a few guys in the lineup who are cold. There's no doubt we need to get them going. [Steve] Pearce not being here, he was a big bat for us, too, in that platoon setup. That's part of it, especially with our type of offense. A slug-it-out type style, you're definitely going to go through that at times."

A quick look at the Blue Jays' roster reveals who the biggest culprits have been this season. Kendrys Morales recently snapped an 0-for-28 skid at the plate, but he has just 13 hits in 89 at-bats while striking out 25 times. Russell Martin is batting .146, Josh Donaldson is batting .230, and while Justin Smoak homered on Saturday afternoon, his OPS has dropped significantly this year from .889 to .774.

Video: BOS@TOR: Smoak belts a towering homer to left

Toronto's numbers this season have been particularly poor against lefties. The Blue Jays entered play on Saturday with a .220 batting average vs. southpaws this season, which ranked 27th in the Major Leagues. The club has still managed a .500 record (8-8) against left-handed pitching, but there was a clear lack of execution vs. Price and the Red Sox's bullpen as the Blue Jays finished 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position and left seven men on base.

Right-hander Marco Estrada took the loss for the Blue Jays after he allowed four runs on seven hits and a walk while striking out five. Estrada went six innings for the second time in as many starts, but he also surrendered at least four runs for the fifth time in his past six outings. The 34-year-old has lost three of his past four decisions and has allowed nine runs in 11 innings vs. Boston this season. The big blow was a two-run shot by Hanley Ramirez in the third.

Video: BOS@TOR: Maile throws out Vazquez, call confirmed

Smoak hit his fifth home run of the season in a losing cause for the Blue Jays. Teoscar Hernandez was the lone Toronto player with multiple hits, while Anthony Alford picked up the first RBI of his Major League career. Price improved to 18-3 with a 2.43 ERA in 27 career appearances against Toronto.

"It's always a place I've enjoyed pitching," Price said. "I enjoy the mound, the atmosphere. I don't think anybody is excited to pitch against the Blue Jays. They always swing it really well, but I like the mound. It's a place I feel comfortable pitching, and I look forward to it every time I get the ball here."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Trouble with the long ball: The Red Sox did almost all of their damage off Estrada in the top of the third inning. Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi hit back-to-back doubles with one out, and Ramirez followed with a two-run homer over the wall in left-center field. Estrada has surrendered at least one home run in six of his starts this season, and his total of 10 homers allowed is tied for the second most in the American League. Last year, Estrada set a career high with 31 big flies allowed.

Video: BOS@TOR: Ramirez adds to lead with a 2-run homer

"I made a decent pitch to Betts, and he kind of hooked it down the line, I didn't think he hit it that well, but it found a good area," Estrada said. "The next pitch wasn't so great, Benintendi hit a gapper. I thought I made a good pitch to Ramirez. I wanted to go up and in, I could have gotten it in a little bit more. But after he hit it, I didn't think it was going to go out, but it did. It's unfortunate, but other than that, I thought I threw the ball pretty well today."

The rookie ribbie: Alford picked up the first RBI of his career with a seeing-eye single up the middle during the bottom of the fourth. Toronto's No. 3 prospect was appearing in his 10th Major League game, and the single marked the third hit of his career. The 23-year-old has started each of the past two games for Toronto, and he's expected to be in the starting lineup again on Sunday afternoon with lefty Drew Pomeranz on the mound for Boston. Alford is currently in a left-field platoon with Curtis Granderson.

Video: BOS@TOR: Alford singles, picks up first career RBI

"Hopefully, it's the first of many," Alford said with a smile. "I had my first hit in the dome here today. I told [Blue Jays first-base coach Tim Leiper] I didn't think that first hit was ever going to come here. I'm just glad to get it out of the way. I hope it's the first of many."

SOUND SMART
Hernandez had his eighth multi-hit game of the season. Of his 30 hits, 19 of them have gone for extra bases (11 doubles, two triples and six homers).

HE SAID IT
"I feel like it's usually a home run that kind of kills everything for me. Things are usually going OK and the next thing I know, I get two guys on, the next guy hits the ball well and it just gets out and ruins everything. Today, same thing. If it wasn't for that homer, who knows?" -- Estrada, on his outing

UP NEXT
Right-hander Joe Biagini (0-1, 8.10 ERA) will take the mound when the Blue Jays wrap up their three-game series against the Red Sox on Sunday afternoon with first pitch scheduled for 1:07 p.m. ET in a special Mother's Day matinee. Biagini was recalled from Triple-A Buffalo earlier this week after Marcus Stroman was placed on the 10-day disabled list with right shoulder fatigue. Boston will counter with Pomeranz (1-1, 5.23 ERA).

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

Toronto Blue Jays, Anthony Alford, Marco Estrada, Justin Smoak