Falling behind 7-0 in the second inning did not help the Toronto Blue Jays. Considering their history against Boston’s Jon Lester, overcoming the deficit was near impossible.
Lester pitched into the eighth inning before leaving with a jammed right hip and Dustin Pedroia homered during a seven-run second inning as Toronto lost 7-4 to the Red Sox in the opener of a crucial four-game series on Thursday.
“They dropped seven on us. Against a good pitcher, you are never going to catch that,” Toronto manager John Gibbons said. “Too much to overcome.”
Even for baseball’s hottest team.
Toronto, who reeled off 11 straight wins this month, had won 12 of their past 14 games and 15 of 19 to close within 6.5 games of the American League East-leading Red Sox.
None of those came against Boston, though.
The Red Sox jumped all over Taiwan’s Wang Chien-ming early, tagging the right-hander for seven runs while batting around in the second.
Wang (1-1), making his fourth start for Toronto this season, lasted just 1-2/3 innings, allowing all seven runs on six hits, with two walks and no strikeouts.
“The sinker was flat. Left the ball in the middle,” Wang said. “Without the sinker it takes away too much.”
Lester (8-4) did the rest — as he usually does against Toronto.
The left-hander retired 10 straight to begin the game and did not allow a hit until the fifth inning. He came out after giving up consecutive singles to start the eighth and running the count to 3-0 on Emilio Bonifacio.
Red Sox manager John Farrell came darting out of the dugout as the infielders crowded around Lester. Moments later, Lester walked off the field and Junichi Tazawa came on in relief.
The Blue Jays capitalized, cutting the deficit to 7-4 on a sacrifice fly by Jose Reyes and a groundout by Jose Bautista.
Koji Uehara then preserved the lead with a perfect ninth for his third save.
Lester was charged with four runs on five hits, with five strikeouts and three walks in winning for just the second time in his past eight starts.
He improved to 14-7 in his career against the Blue Jays, including 3-0 with a 2.79 ERA in four starts this season. He threw his only complete game of the year against Toronto, too, pitching a one-hit shutout on May 10.
“It’s a huge series for us,” Blue Jays shortstop Jose Reyes said. “The Red Sox are in first place and they are playing good baseball right now. Any ballpark you fall behind 7-0 it’s hard, but definitely this one.”
Lester needed only 30 pitches to get through three innings and did not allow a baserunner until Bautista walked with one out in the fourth.
Melky Cabrera singled for Toronto’s first hit with one out in the fifth inning and moved to second on a base hit by Rajai Davis. Maicer Izturis drove them both home with a double to left-center.
Yet it was not enough to make up for Boston’s blistering start.
Wang allowed the first seven batters to reach base during the drawn-out second inning.
David Ortiz and Mike Carp walked, Daniel Nava delivered an RBI single off the Green Monster in left field and Jarrod Saltalamacchia followed with an RBI single up the middle to make it 2-0.
Stephen Drew’s double to right scored Nava, then consecutive base hits by Jose Iglesias and Jacoby Ellsbury stretched the lead to 5-0 before Wang even managed an out.
It got even worse.
After inducing a double play, Wang served up Pedroia’s fifth homer of the season, a two-run shot that landed in the first row of Green Monster seats and ended Wang’s evening after just 45 pitches.