Moreland and Betts lead way as Red Sox edge Jays 8-7 for fourth win in a row

Red Sox edge slumping Blue Jays 8-7

TORONTO — The Toronto Blue Jays are starting to show flashes of their offensive potential. It just hasn’t been enough to get them out of a long slump to open the regular season.

Russell Martin, Justin Smoak and Ezequiel Carrera homered for Toronto but the Blue Jays still dropped an 8-7 decision to the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday night at Rogers Centre.

The Red Sox had a pair of three-run innings and pounded out 15 hits on the night. The Blue Jays made it interesting with a three-run ninth — highlighted by Carrera’s two-run shot — but Devon Travis lined out to end it as Toronto fell to 2-11.

“There are some good signs there,” said Blue Jays manager John Gibbons. “That doesn’t win you anything, but it’ll happen.”

Mitch Moreland drove in three runs and Mookie Betts scored three times. Boston scored three runs in the third inning and added three more in the fifth.

The Red Sox (9-5) extended their winning streak to four games and moved into a virtual tie with Baltimore and New York for first place in the American League East.

Toronto tied a season-high with 12 hits but left 11 runners on base. Kevin Pillar had three doubles for the Blue Jays, who fell to 1-6 on their nine-game homestand.

“We’re not happy with the way things are going,” Pillar said. “This is not how we envisioned it going, but at the end of day it’s early. We can’t sit here and use that as an excuse or a crutch for much longer, but the reality is it’s early.

“Teams go through this. It’s just unfortunate we’re going through it at the beginning of the year. Everything is under a magnifying glass.”

Boston left-hander Brian Johnson (1-0) got the start after being called up from triple-A Pawtucket earlier in the day and the Blue Jays made him work early with a 35-pitch first inning. 

Toronto scored twice in the frame and added solo homers by Smoak in the third and Martin in the fifth.

Blue Jays starter Marcus Stroman (1-2) didn’t make it out of the top half of the fifth. He gave up six earned runs, 11 hits and a walk while striking out four.

“Some balls found holes early and then they capitalized on some bad pitches later on,” Stroman said. “It’s baseball, I’m not really worried about it to be honest. I’ll bounce back next start.”

Johnson, meanwhile, allowed four earned runs, seven hits and three walks over five innings. He had six strikeouts.

Betts hit Boston’s lone homer in the seventh. The Red Sox added another run in the eighth inning when Andrew Benintendi’s ground-rule double scored Pablo Sandoval.

“I think we’re just grinding through at-bats and making them make pitches, putting good swings on good pitches,” Betts said. “We were fortunate to find some holes.”

In the ninth, Steve Pearce drove in Martin with a single and Carrera followed with a pinch-hit homer. Announced attendance was 29,281 and the game took three hours 48 minutes to play.

Notes: Pillar has hit safely in six straight games. … The Blue Jays placed southpaw J.A. Happ (left elbow) on the 10-day disabled list before the game and recalled utilityman Ty Kelly from triple-A Buffalo. In addition, right-hander Danny Barnes was recalled as a corresponding roster move after left-hander Matt Dermody was optioned to Buffalo on Monday. Dermody gave up three homers in one inning last Sunday. … The Blue Jays traded catcher Juan Graterol to the Angels for a player to be named later or cash. … Left-hander Francisco Liriano (0-1, 9.00 ERA) is scheduled to start Wednesday night against right-hander Rick Porcello (1-1, 7.56).

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Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press