Although this hasn't been a very good road trip for the Boston Red Sox, the sting has been diminished by a slump from their closest pursuer in the AL East.
With a .500 trip the best possible outcome, the Red Sox try to avoid their second consecutive series loss Thursday night against the Toronto Blue Jays.
When Boston (72-50) left for this 10-game trip Aug. 4, it held a one-game lead over Tampa Bay in the division. Five losses in nine games gave the Rays a golden opportunity to close the gap, but they lost a season-high six straight before rallying for a 5-4 victory over Seattle on Wednesday to move within three games of the Red Sox.
Poor starting pitching has been Boston's biggest problem on the trip, with the rotation posting a 4.93 ERA. Jon Lester , though, wasn't to blame for Wednesday's 4-3, 10-inning loss as his quality start was offset by his team's 1-for-9 performance with runners in scoring position.
The Red Sox left the bases loaded in the ninth and stranded runners at first and second in the 10th."Late in the game, we continue to put up good at-bats," manager John Farrell said. "Unfortunately, that two-out hit that can make the difference was elusive in both innings."
Slumping Mike Napoli forced extras with a two-out, two-run homer in the ninth. Napoli, who hadn't homered since July 24 and was dropped to seventh in the order, is batting .128 (6 for 47) with 20 strikeouts in his last 13 games."Hopefully that puts him in a good frame of mind," Lester said. "He should be pumped about that, he should be excited."
David Ortiz hit his team-leading 23rd home run for Boston and is batting .424 (14 for 33) on the trip. His 32 home runs at Rogers Centre are his most at any stadium other then Fenway Park.
The Red Sox need a win in the finale to avoid losing consecutive series for the first time since dropping three in a row May 3-12.
Brett Lawrie singled home the winning run to give the Blue Jays (55-65) their second victory in seven games. That was the only hit of the night for Lawrie, batting .407 in his last 16 contests.
He'll look to continue that hot stretch against Jake Peavy (9-4, 4.50 ERA), who has had mixed results in his first two starts with Boston. The veteran right-hander threw seven strong innings in a 5-2 win over Arizona in his Red Sox debut Aug. 3, but allowed six runs and a season-high 10 hits over five-plus innings before leaving without a decision in a 9-6 loss at Kansas City on Friday."You've got to win games when your offense scores six," Peavy said. "I didn't feel good stuff-wise or control-wise."
Peavy is 2-0 with a 2.15 ERA in his last four starts against the Blue Jays. He's been especially tough on sluggers Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion , who are a combined 6 for 32 (.187) in this matchup.
Toronto counters with Mark Buehrle (8-7, 4.43), who aims to continue his best stretch of the season. The left-hander is 3-0 with a 2.63 ERA in his last four starts after posting a 5.52 ERA in his previous five outings. He wasn't at his best in a 5-4 win over Oakland on Saturday though, yielding three runs and seven hits in 5 1-3 innings.
Buehrle is 0-4 with a 4.97 ERA in eight starts against the Red Sox since last beating them Sept. 7, 2009, with the White Sox.
|Boston Red Sox|
|August 08, 2013||Brandon Snyder||15-Day DL||Ulnar neuritis, right elbow|
|August 05, 2013||Matt Thornton||15-Day DL||Strained right oblique|
|August 04, 2013||Matt Thornton||Day-to-Day||Right oblique soreness|
|July 19, 2013||Shane Victorino||Day-to-Day||Left game - left hamstring tightness|
|July 13, 2013||Andrew Bailey||15-Day DL||Right shoulder strain|
|July 09, 2013||Alex Wilson||15-Day DL||Sprained right thumb|
|Toronto Blue Jays|
|August 12, 2013||Colby Rasmus||15-Day DL||Left oblique strain|
|August 10, 2013||Juan Perez||60-Day DL||Torn UCL ligament, left elbow|
|August 07, 2013||Josh Johnson||15-Day DL||Strained right forearm|
|August 03, 2013||Steve Delabar||15-Day DL||Right shoulder inflammation|
|August 02, 2013||Melky Cabrera||15-Day DL||Left knee strain|
|July 30, 2013||Dustin McGowan||15-Day DL||Strained right oblique|
TORONTO (AP) -- Another day, another game of missed opportunities for the struggling Boston Red Sox.
Pinch hitter Mark DeRosa hit a tiebreaking sacrifice fly in the seventh inning, Mark Buehrle pitched seven innings to win his fourth straight decision and the Toronto Blue Jays beat Boston 2-1 on Thursday night.
"Tonight, the story is (runners) left on base," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "This is a frustrating one."
The Red Sox went 2 for 12 with runners in scoring position and left 12 men on. That dropped them to 6 for 34 with runners in scoring position in the three-game series and boosted their total of stranded runners to 33.
"We had a ton of opportunities to score and just couldn't get that one big hit," said Dustin Pedroia . "We've got to swing the bats better with guys on."
The Blue Jays took two of three from the AL East-leading Red Sox, who went 4-6 on a three-city road trip that also included stops in Houston and Kansas City. Boston has lost five of seven overall, dropping consecutive series for the first time since losing three straight against Texas, Minnesota and Toronto from May 3-12.
"Any time you go through a 4-6 road trip it's disappointing, said Farrell. "We've got to go home and regroup."
The Red Sox won't get much time to enjoy being home. After a three-game series with the Yankees that begins Friday, they hit the road again for three at San Francisco and three against the NL West-leading Los Angeles Dodgers .
Buehrle (9-7) came in 0-4 with a 4.97 ERA in his previous eight starts against the Red Sox, a team he hadn't beaten since Sept. 7, 2009, with the White Sox.
"I know I've struggled against them," Buehrle said. "You have to have everything going your way. You have to have runs scored for you, you have to have defense behind you and you have to have the bullpen save the lead."
The left-hander allowed one run and 10 hits, walked two and struck out four before Darren Oliver worked the eighth and Casey Janssen finished for his 22nd save in 24 chances.
Pedroia hit a two-out single in the first and went to second when David Ortiz walked, but was thrown out at the plate by left-fielder Kevin Pillar trying to score on a Jonny Gomes ' single. It was the first assist of Pillar's career.
Pedroia said he didn't slide because he was hoping to let the ball hit him. Instead, he ran beyond the plate and tried to come back, only to be tagged out by catcher J.P. Arencibia, who was waiting with the ball.
"It was kind of an awkward deal," Pedroia acknowledged. "I should have tried to slide or go through him or something."
With the Blue Jays using a defensive shift, Pedroia was able to go from first to third when Ortiz grounded out in the third. Toronto escaped when Gomes fouled out and Stephen Drew struck out.
After stranding six runners through the first three innings, Boston broke through with a run off Buehrle in the fourth. Daniel Nava hit a one out double, went to third on a check-swing single by Will Middlebrooks and scored on Jacoby Ellsbury 's RBI grounder. The Blue Jays might have been able to turn a double play, but second baseman Munenori Kawasaki threw high to shortstop Jose Reyes covering second, preventing a throw to first.
Drew and Ryan Lavarnway both singled to begin the sixth, but Buehrle fanned Nava and Middlebrooks before getting Ellsbury to ground out.
Red Sox starter Jake Peavy (9-5) came in 2-0 with a 2.15 ERA in his past four starts against Toronto and was untroubled through the first six innings, allowing just a pair of two-out hits.
That changed in the seventh, when Jose Bautista singled off the glove of third baseman Middlebrooks, took second on Edwin Encarnacion 's single and scored on a base hit by Lawrie, with Encarnacion advancing to third.
Bautista's ball was initially ruled an error but changed to a base hit after review.
"Typically, that's a play that should be made," Farrell said. "Unfortunately, it wasn't."
Craig Breslow came on to face DeRosa, who put the Blue Jays in front with a sacrifice fly.
"Tough way to lose," Peavy said. "I've got to be better, there's no other way to say it."
Making his third start with Boston since coming over in a July 30 trade with the Chicago White Sox, Peavy allowed two runs and five hits in six-plus innings. He walked none and struck out four in his first career loss to Toronto.
"Jake threw the ball well, certainly deserved a better fate," Farrell said.
NOTES: Boston 1B Mike Napoli , who snapped a 0-for-16 slump with a tying two-run homer in the ninth inning Wednesday, got the day off. ... MRI results for Blue Jays RHP Josh Johnson confirmed the initial diagnosis of a strained right forearm. Johnson was placed on the 15-day DL Tuesday, retroactive to Aug. 7. ... Following the game, Toronto optioned RHP Mickey Storey to Triple-A Buffalo and recalled OF Anthony Gose . ... With a crowd of 40,477, the Blue Jays topped the 2 million mark in attendance on their 63rd home date, the quickest they've reached the mark since 1997.