BOSTON (AP) — Reigning AL Cy Young winner Rick Porcello struggled in his final playoff tuneup, and David Price relieved him to solidify his role on the postseason roster as the Boston Red Sox beat Toronto 10-7 on Wednesday night to lower their magic number to two.
Hanley Ramirez and Xander Bogaerts homered in a five-run third inning for Boston after Porcello (11-17) gave up three runs in the first. The Red Sox scored one in the first and three in the second and then took a 9-4 lead in the third to chase Marco Estrada (10-9) and snap a two-game losing streak.
Boston, which is already guaranteed a playoff berth, maintained a three-game lead in the division over the second-place Yankees, who beat Tampa Bay 6-1 on Wednesday night. The Red Sox could clinch the first back-to-back AL East titles in franchise history with a victory over Houston on Thursday and a New York loss to the Rays.
Porcello allowed five runs, seven hits and two walks, striking out eight in 5 2/3 innings. A year after winning a career-high 22 games, the 28-year-old right-hander posted the most losses in his career. With a chance to become baseball’s first 20-game loser since 2003, Porcello went 2-0 with a no-decision in his last three starts.
Price pitched 1 1/3 perfect innings, striking out three, as he works his way back from left elbow problems that kept him on the disabled list for most of the year. It was his third appearance — all in relief — since returning on Sept. 14; he is 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA, striking out nine in six innings
Mitch Moreland homered for the Red Sox, and Bogaerts had three hits and drove in four runs.
Estrada allowed eight runs — seven earned — nine hits and a walk, striking out two while recording just seven outs and losing for the first time in six decisions. He had only allowed two earned runs in his previous three starts against Boston this season.
Jose Bautista, Darwin Barney and Teoscar Hernandez homered for the Blue Jays, who hit 10 home runs in the three-game series. Hernandez has eight since he was called up on Sept. 1 — a franchise record for rookies in the month.
Bogaerts scored two runs, the first when he came around from first on Dustin Pedroia’s single in the second inning and slid in under the tag head first. Home plate umpire Larry Vanover ruled him out, but Bogaerts came up signaling for manager John Farrell to challenge; replays showed Bogaerts got his hand on the plate before catcher Russell Martin caught his thigh with the tag.
Red Sox: RF Mookie Betts (sore left wrist) and INF Eduardo Nunez (right knee injury) were out for the second straight game. Farrell said before the game that Betts was “improved” and they hoped to have him available if needed to pinch hit after further treatment. . Nunez did some running and said he was trying “everything to get back on the field.”
Blue Jays: Off Thursday before opening their final series of the season Friday afternoon at the New York Yankees.
Red Sox: LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (6-6, 3.91 ERA) is set to start the opener of a four-game series Thursday night in Fenway Park against AL West champion Houston. He’s 2-1 with a 1.78 ERA in his last four starts as he bids for a start in the postseason rotation.
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