TORONTO — It’s been a bad three-game stretch for the Blue Jays and the numbers tell a bleak story: three straight home losses, 29 runs given up on 42 hits and 13 walks.
Toronto (11-12) gave up leads in 10-8 and 11-4 losses to the Baltimore Orioles this week. It was never close Friday as the Boston Red Sox got to Mark Buehrle early en route to an 8-1 win.
“Tomorrow comes quickly and early,” Jays manager John Gibbons said hopefully, “So we need to get back out and play some good baseball.”
It’s sorely needed. Toronto’s pitching staff has a combined earned-run average of 4.70 with 99 walks. And the Jays are hitting .247.
Boston slugger David Ortiz hit his 50th career homer against the Jays and right-hander Jake Peavey scattered five hits over seven innings in a tidy outing to earn his first win after four non-decisions. A unanimous NL Cy Young Award-winner in 2007, Peavey struck out seven and walked two.
The lone blemish on the Peavey scoresheet was a Juan Francisco home run — his first as a Blue Jay — in the seventh inning. The six-foot-two 245-pound designated hitter muscled a moonshot that landed in the right-field boxes just under the 500 level.
Buehrle (4-1) was trying to become first Blue Jays starter to win his first five starts of the campaign. Instead he wobbled early as the Red Sox (11-13) recorded their 300th career victory against Toronto before an announced crowd of 29,411.
The 35-year-old left-hander came into the game with a 4-0 record and MLB-leading 0.64 ERA. Buehrle had allowed two runs in 28 innings, striking out 19 and walking only five batters. The opposition was batting .210 against him.
On Friday, he gave up seven runs on 12 hits in 5 1/3 innings, throwing 101 pitches that included 64 strikes. Buehrle walked three, had no strikeouts and saw his ERA increase to 2.16.
“He’s been so good. That’s baseball, you’re not going to be perfect every time out there,” Gibbons said. “He’ll bounce back. He was just off tonight, it’s that simple.”
Buehrle pointed to his walks and some bloop hits that found holes and eluded defenders.
“You’ve got to have the luck on your side. I wasn’t hitting my spots as good as I was in the past. And when I did they got some base hits. But overall, too many strikes in the middle of the zone and they took advantage of it.”
Boston outhit Toronto 16-6 with all nine Red Sox starters registering hits on the night.
The roof was closed on a wet, windy evening in Toronto. But down the street, Raptors fans braved the elements at Maple Leaf Square to watch Game 3 of Toronto’s NBA playoff series against the Nets in Brooklyn on the big screen outside the Air Canada Centre.
That ending was closer but no more satisfying to locals.
A leadoff walk and four hits in the second inning put the Jays behind 4-0 as Boston sent seven men to the plate and Buehrle threw 30 pitches. An A.J. Pierzynski sacrifice fly, Will Middlebrooks single and Dustin Pedroia’s two-RBI single kept the Boston scoreboard ticking.
The inning snapped Buehrle’s streak of 0-23 with runners in scoring position.
An Ortiz home run to deep right field made it 5-0 in the third. It was Ortiz’s fifth homer of the season and the 436th of his career, moving him within two of tying Andre Dawson and Jason Giambi for 40th place on the MLB all-time list.
The Ortiz blast was also his 33rd at the Rogers Centre. Only Alex Rodriguez (36) has hit more in a visitor’s uniform here.
Toronto’s Jose Bautista doubled in the fourth and has now reached base safely in all 23 games this season. The feel-good story ended quickly when he was caught stealing third, with one out and Edwin Encarnacion on first. Dioner Navarro then popped up to end the threat.
“I’ve got no idea,” Gibbons said when asked what Bautista was thinking. “It’s not smart winning baseball. I’m sure he won’t do it again.”
Said Peavey: “That was a shot in the arm for us.”
Middlebrooks, returning to the Boston lineup from a strained right calf injury that had sidelined him since April 4, doubled home Pierzynski in the sixth to make it 6-0. Buehrle exited one hitter later after walking the No. 9 hitter, Jackie Bradley Jr.
Neil Wagner followed Buehrle and soon had to deal with the bases loaded, with two out, after a Jose Reyes error and Ortiz walk. Wagner walked Mike Napoli to make it 7-0, after the Boston first baseman had fouled off a string of balls with the count full, before striking out Jonny Gomes.
The Jays had men on first and third with two out in the sixth but Peavey struck out Bautista and Encarnacion to snuff out Toronto’s first threat of the night.
Boston manager John Farrell called it a key moment.
“Jake gets two big strikeouts to end their threat, to keep the momentum on our side.”
The hard-throwing Wagner, who complicated matters with two walks and one hit batsman in 1 1/3 innings, was followed by Todd Redmond.
The Jays sent Wagner to Triple-A Buffalo after the game, calling up pitcher Chad Jenkins.
Bradley, who had three extra base hits on the night, made it 8-1 with a two-out RBI double off Redmond in the ninth.
Chris Capuano pitched the eighth for Boston, striking out the side. Andrew Miller worked the ninth, giving up a single while striking out two.