TORONTO — The Toronto Blue Jays had one solid chance to get to Rick Porcello on Wednesday night.
But a fluke play worked out in the Boston starter’s favour and the Red Sox went on to win 7-1 for a three-game sweep over the struggling Blue Jays.
With the bases loaded and one out in the fourth inning, Porcello snared a hard-hit line drive from Darwin Barney, then struck out Raffy Lopez to end the threat.
Asked if Barney’s line drive could have been a turning point had it snuck through, manager John Gibbons replied: ”There’s no doubt about it.
“Who knows what difference that might have made.”
Instead, Porcello continued to shut Toronto’s hitters down, retiring nine straight after Barney’s liner before issuing a two-out walk to Lopez in the seventh.
“That was a momentum-stopper,” Porcello said. “It was a big inning for us.”
The loss, Toronto’s fourth straight and 10th in 12 games, put them 11 games under .500 at 61-72, tying a season-low.
The Blue Jays, who showed flashes of playoff potential just weeks ago, opened Wednesday 7 1/2 games back of a wild-card spot.
“Obviously it’s been real tough,” Gibbons said of the ugly losing stretch. “But we haven’t played good enough baseball lately. So deal with it, what else are you going to do, right?”
Porcello (9-15), last year’s AL Cy Young winner, went 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball with six hits, two walks and seven strikeouts. The 28-year-old right-hander has gone at least six innings in 25 straight road starts, the longest active streak in the majors.
Pinch-hitter Mitch Moreland led the way offensively with four RBI’s.
Moreland, in to pinch hit for designated hitter Chris Young in the seventh, followed a Hanley Ramirez double by drilling a fastball from reliever Tom Koehler (1-7) into the second deck in right field to give the visitors a 3-1 lead.
He was at it again in Boston’s four-run eighth inning, lacing a soft line drive to centre off Aaron Loup to plate two more.
Ramirez also homered for the AL East-leading Red Sox (76-57), going deep for the second time in as many nights. Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts added RBI doubles.
“It seems like they keep coming at you, for sure. It’s a tough lineup, 1 through 9,” said Toronto starter J.A. Happ, who went six innings in the no-decision, allowing one run and four hits while striking out two and walking four.
“They’re in first place for a reason right now. They were tough this series, for sure.”
Raffy Lopez hit a solo homer for the Blue Jays, who have won just one of nine against the Red Sox at Rogers Centre this season, being outscored 57-23 in that span.
Ramirez followed the Toronto’s missed fourth-inning opportunity with a leadoff solo homer in the fifth to tie the game 1-1 and snap Happ’s streak of 39 2/3 innings without allowing a home run.
“Those are the plays that are the difference in games, especially lately for us,” Happ said of the bases-loaded chance. “To break it open would have been nice but we just couldn’t hold on there.”
Betts and Bogaerts started Boston’s four-run eighth with back-to-back RBI doubles off Tim Mayza. Mayza did not record an out and was charged with all four runs in the inning.
Toronto begins a four-game road series on Thursday night against a Baltimore Orioles team that’s won seven straight.
“We’re going to go into Baltimore to face a team that’s hot right now as well,” Happ said. “So we’re hoping to bounce back.”
NOTES: Justin Smoak sat out the game with a tight calf. Manager John Gibbons believed it to be a minor injury. Gibbons also said that second baseman Devon Travis had a setback in his rehab and will likely not play again this season. Josh Donaldson was given the night off. … Attendance was 37,693. … Ryan Goins singled in the fourth inning to extend his hit streak to nine games.