TORONTO -- The Red Sox staked their claim to first place in the American League East by soundly outplaying the Blue Jays in almost every facet of the game during their highly anticipated series opener on Friday night.Right-hander Rick Porcello became the Majors' first 20-game winner this season by limiting
TORONTO -- The Red Sox staked their claim to first place in the American League East by soundly outplaying the Blue Jays in almost every facet of the game during their highly anticipated series opener on Friday night.
Right-hander Rick Porcello became the Majors' first 20-game winner this season by limiting Toronto to a pair of runs while striking out seven over seven innings during Boston's 13-3 victory. He scattered six hits and walked just one as the Red Sox increased their lead atop the division to two games over the second-place Blue Jays.
"It's definitely a huge honor," said Porcello, the first Boston pitcher to win 20 games since Josh Beckett in 2007. "It's hard to win one game in the big leagues let alone 20. I'm very proud of that. At the same time, it's collective. We had to swing the bats and play defense. It's a complete team effort."
Xander Bogaerts and Hanley Ramirez each homered while every member of the starting lineup reached base at least once. Dustin Pedroia had three hits and four RBIs from the leadoff spot. Boston scored at least once in each of the first four innings and in the seventh it broke the game open with six runs.
"You know what? We're all sitting here with 22 games to play and every team is the team to beat right now," said Red Sox manager John Farrell.
Blue Jays right-hander Marco Estrada could not pitch his way out of the third inning after being roughed up for the fourth time in his last five outings. Estrada allowed four runs -- three earned -- on six hits and three walks. Estrada, who allowed three earned runs or fewer in 18 of his first 20 starts, has allowed five or more in four of his last five starts while posting a 7.71 ERA.
Melvin Upton Jr. and Devon Travis each committed an error as the Blue Jays also experienced plenty of issues on defense throughout the night. Dioner Navarro was charged with a passed ball and Michael Saunders also had an issue handling Mookie Betts' double in the first inning.
Detroit beat Baltimore, 4-3, on Friday night, which means Toronto leads both teams by one game for the top AL Wild Card spot.
"We didn't play a very good game, that's pretty obvious," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "Overall, it was just a blah, not very well played game. … It is uncharacteristic of us, so put it behind you. We haven't seen that too often. I really can't remember seeing a game like that in a long time."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Porcello escapes big jam: In the bottom of the third, the Blue Jays looked primed to storm back from a 4-0 deficit. A two-run single by Travis made it a two-run game. There were still two on with one out, and Porcello (20-3, 3.21 ERA) had to deal with Toronto's two most dangerous hitters. Josh Donaldson struck out on three pitches, as Porcello completed the exchange by freezing the AL's reigning Most Valuable Player Award winner on a 92-mph fastball.
Edwin Encarnacion then hit into a 5-4-3 double play to end the rally. This marked the ninth straight start Porcello has gone at least seven innings while giving up three earned runs or fewer.
"Yeah, that was big," said Porcello. "That was a heck of a play by Travis [Shaw]. That ball took a tough hop at the last second and he made a great play on it. That inning was the inning for me to limit to the damage there."
Melvin's miscues: Toronto's defense is generally considered one of its strengths, but it proved to be a weakness during each of Boston's early rallies. Upton misplayed a liner off the bat of Betts in the third, he dropped a lazy fly ball later that inning and then overran a double by Brock Holt later in the fourth. The trio of mistakes eventually led to a pair of "Bronx cheers" in the fifth inning after Upton cleanly fielded a single and then ran off the field to a standing ovation after catching a fly ball to left.
"It's obviously a big series. I tried to make a play. I just didn't catch it first," Upton said. More >
Hanley, Pedey stay hot: Ramirez pretty much erased any doubt in this one when he ripped a three-run homer in the seventh to right-center that hit the top of the wall before bouncing over to make it a 9-2 game. Over a 92 at-bat stretch that started on Aug. 11, Ramirez is hitting .359 with eight homers and 31 RBIs. Pedroia was in the middle of most of Boston's rallies again, and he is hitting .455 (50-for-110) since moving into the leadoff spot on Aug. 10.
"Quietly he's gone along when so many other guys are getting the attention," Farrell said. "Here he is knocking on the door of 100 RBIs. The last three weeks, he's been as hot as anyone for us. So when you've got him in the five-hole doing what he's capable of and then when you can look at the bottom third of our lineup, I firmly believe that's what has a chance to set us apart offensively." More >
Estrada labors early: Estrada allowed only one run in the first inning, but he had to fight through every at-bat and and was forced to throw 36 pitches along the way. He battled control problems with a pair of walks in the first, another in the second and a lot of deep counts along the way. The final blow came in the third inning when the Red Sox had runners on the corners with one out and Upton could not come up with the catch on a fly ball to left. Sandy Leon then officially chased Estrada from the game with an RBI single to left. In Estrada's first 10 starts, opponents were hitting .168 against him, but over his last 10 they are batting .286.
"Nothing went our way today, and obviously it all started with me," Estrada said. "When your starting pitcher is out there making a bunch of pitches like that, it brings everybody down a little bit. I have to do a better job to get quick outs, because obviously this can't keep happening. We're in a tight race and luckily we get to play these guys again tomorrow. And it's a day game, so you have to have a short memory."
"Yeah, I've got to call my parents. That's first and foremost. I have a bunch of text messages, so I'm looking forward to talking to everybody." -- Porcello, on receiving congratulatory messages on his phone after the game
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Porcello's streak of nine straight starts of at least seven innings while allowing three earned runs or fewer is the best by a Red Sox pitcher since Pedro Martinez did it 11 consecutive times in 2000.
The Blue Jays were the latest team to honor David Ortiz in a ceremony before Friday's game. The latest Big Papi retirement gift? A custom-made red Canada Goose jacket, which has Ortiz's No. 34 final season patch on it.
"It's been unbelievable," said Ortiz. "I never expected anything from anyone. To see people taking their time and doing things like that for myself is really an honor. I really appreciate everybody and what they have done this season. Everything has been a blessing." More >
Red Sox: Fresh off having his no-hitter broken up with two outs in the eighth inning by the Athletics in his last start, lefty Eduardo Rodriguez pitches the middle game of this crucial series against the Blue Jays. First pitch is scheduled for 1:07 p.m. ET.
Blue Jays: Left-hander J.A. Happ (17-4, 3.44 ERA) will take the mound when the Blue Jays continue their three-game series vs. Boston on Sunday afternoon at Rogers Centre. Happ lasted just 2 2/3 innings vs. Tampa Bay during his last start as he allowed three runs on six hits and a pair of walks while tossing 85 pitches.
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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.