TORONTO -- If J.D. Martinez's clutch, three-run rocket in the top of the eighth wasn't enough to sink the Blue Jays, Mitch Moreland and Jackie Bradley Jr. finished the job a couple of innings later.Moreland erased the sting of Craig Kimbrel's fourth blown save of the season when he unloaded
TORONTO -- If J.D. Martinez's clutch, three-run rocket in the top of the eighth wasn't enough to sink the Blue Jays, Mitch Moreland and Jackie Bradley Jr. finished the job a couple of innings later.
Moreland erased the sting of Craig Kimbrel's fourth blown save of the season when he unloaded for a towering, three-run homer to right that led the scalding-hot Red Sox to a 10-7 victory in 10 innings in the opener of a three-game series on Tuesday night at Rogers Centre. Later in the inning, Bradley lofted a two-run shot that bounced off the top of the bullpen wall in right.
"It was one of those things," Martinez said. "It think it's been our story all year. We're never out of a game, really."
Though this one took longer than expected, the Red Sox (80-34) continue to win every which way. They became the first team to win 80 games this season and the fourth since 1961 to get there in 114 games or fewer ('17 Dodgers, '01 Mariners, '98 Yankees). This was Boston's ninth win in its last 10 games and 24th in the last 29.
For Boston, adversity tends to come in the form of speed bumps instead of potholes. Inevitably, manager Alex Cora's team seems to right itself. This comeback came on the heels of roaring back from a three-run deficit in the ninth to finish a four-game sweep of the Yankees on Sunday night.
"Yeah, we're pretty good," Moreland said. "We keep creating opportunities. It didn't start off great for us, but that's the reason you play nine innings or however many you need after you tie it up to win it. Yeah, we kept creating those opportunities, giving ourselves a chance, and J.D. came up with a big hit there to kind of put us ahead. We stumbled a little bit, but we're able to regain the lead and get the win -- it was a good one."
After scoring just once in the first seven innings, the Sox turned it on with nine over the final three. The five-run outburst in the 10th came against recently traded reliever Ken Giles.
"It's just us continuing to push," said star right fielder Mookie Betts. "We don't give away at-bats. We never make it easy for our opponents, and that's kind of why we're playing the way we're playing."
Without Martinez's MLB-leading 34th homer of the season, Kimbrel never would have had a save opportunity.
"That lineup is unbelievable," said Blue Jays starter Marcus Stroman. "You can't take a single pitch off from that lineup. There's no just get-me-over pitches; one through nine, you have to be on it. J.D. Martinez is unreal right now. He's the hottest hitter I think I've ever seen live. It's tough to navigate that lineup."
The Sox were down 3-1 to start the eighth, at which point Stroman had to depart with a blister on his right middle finger. On came righty Dennis Tepera, and then the latest comeback by Boston.
"I think it just kind of got them out of their rhythm. [Stroman] was in a rhythm out there and he was pitching well," Martinez said. "Tepera came out and we did a good job of battling him and getting guys on base, getting traffic going really."
The Sox loaded the bases with one out on a single by Andrew Benintendi. Moreland made it a one-run game with a fielder's-choice grounder.
Up stepped Martinez, who mauled a 2-0 pitch that was too far inside to be a strike, and managed to keep it fair down the left-field line. Martinez, who also leads MLB with 97 RBIs, had an exit velocity of 107.3 mph and a launch angle of 25 degrees on his blast, according to Statcast™.
"I felt confident the whole at-bat," Martinez said. "I was just trying to be short, try and put a good swing on him. Not trying to do too much."
But the Blue Jays came right back. Luke Maile smashed a two-run double against Matt Barnes in the eighth to make it a one-run game.
And in the ninth, with the Sox just two outs from victory, Kimbrel served up a game-tying solo shot to Justin Smoak. Kimbrel fell behind in the count 3-0 to Smoak on three straight knuckle-curves. Smoak was obviously sitting fastball on the 3-0 pitch, and he roped the 97.4-mph offering over the wall in right-center for his 18th homer of the season.
Kimbrel is in a rare slump of late, having given up at least one run in four of his last five outings.
"I think it's been command of everything. You can throw strikes but it depends on where you're throwing them," Kimbrel said. "You can have command in the zone or out of the zone. You kind of float through those as the year goes on. The last couple of weeks I've been struggling with some things and working through them. Fastball was a little better tonight and breaking ball was sharp at times. It's frustrating, but happy we won the game today."
The Red Sox rallied to win despite another underwhelming start from Thomas Pomeranz, who has been unable to find any kind of groove. Pomeranz lasted 4 2/3 innings, allowing four hits and two runs while walking five and striking out just one. Of his 84 pitches, just 44 were for strikes. Half of the pitches Pomeranz threw were knuckle-curves. He induced only three swings and misses.
"He's still searching, we're still looking," Cora said. "We need this guy. This guy is very important to us for what we want to try to accomplish, so we'll keep working at it."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
When Betts belted one to left-center with one out in the 10th, Jays center fielder Kevin Pillar seemed primed to make one of those great catches that has made him one of the best defenders in the game in recent years. But Pillar couldn't keep it in his glove on the dive, and Betts roared all the way into third with a triple, helping to set the stage for Moreland.
"I thought he had a chance at it for sure, thought I didn't get it in the gap enough," Betts said. "I guess I put it in a good spot. It's not easy [to get it by him], so just to see that one drop was just a great feeling, especially at that time of the game."
• The last time the Red Sox became the first team in MLB to hit the 80-win mark was 2009. In that season, they had 51 losses at the time, 17 more than they have currently.
• Though nobody wanted to see Christian Vazquez get hurt in July, catcher Sandy Leon is emerging into the quarterback of the pitching staff. He's also been making contributions at the plate. The Red Sox have won Leon's past 13 starts and are 24-1 in his past 25.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Speaking of Leon, he made a huge play to help the Red Sox get out of a bases-loaded, nobody-out jam in the sixth against Brandon Workman. With one out, Maile hit a soft roller down the third-base line that was about to go foul. Before it could, Leon pounced on it, grabbed it, and chased down Kendrys Morales for the second out of the inning. Workman induced Randal Grichuk into a groundout for the third out, and the Sox were still in striking distance for the ensuing comeback.
HE SAID IT
"I don't care about that. You guys know how I am and the way I answer all those questions. We're worried about tomorrow, that's it. We're worried about tomorrow and the next day and what we need to do to win. Those are all kinds of stuff you think about when the season is over. Right now, we're on a mission and that's to keep doing what we're doing and win a World Series." -- Martinez, when asked about the American League MVP race that he is in, along with Betts
Lefty Christopher Johnson, who has been a stable fill-in for the Red Sox rotation, gets the ball for Wednesday's start in Toronto. Johnson again steps in for ace Chris Sale, who will return from the disabled list on Sunday in Baltimore. In seven starts this season, Johnson is 2-1 with a 2.57 ERA. The Blue Jays counter with righty Mike Hauschild, who fired six shutout innings last week in his season debut. The Red Sox are also expected to get third baseman Rafael Devers back from the DL. First pitch is scheduled for 7:07 p.m. ET.
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.