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BOSTON—At the height of the rivalry between the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, facing either American League powerhouse after they’d just played a hard-fought series against each other could be a blessing in disguise.
“There was a few times you’d play ’em right after they played each other,” manager John Gibbons reminisced Monday before his Blue Jays took on the AL East-leading Red Sox. “It was always a good time to play them because they were beat to death. Bullpens were beat to crap.”
Fenway Park hosted another duel between the old foes over the weekend, including a 16-inning marathon on Saturday before a Sunday doubleheader. Boston and New York split the series, but the real winners may have been the Blue Jays, who beat an overworked Red Sox team 4-3 in the opener of a four-game set.
Blue Jays left fielder Steve Pearce was the man of the hour, launching a solo homer over the Green Monster in the second inning for a 3-0 lead before cashing in Ezequiel Carrera with a decisive RBI single in the eighth, stopping the home team’s comeback in its tracks.
A bases-loaded jam in the seventh was the first time all night that Stroman looked anything but in control: a double from Andrew Benintendi, an error by Stroman — failing to get his foot on the bag while covering first on a Jackie Bradley Jr. grounder — and a walk to Christian Vazquez set the stage. Brock Holt’s sacrifice fly scored Benintendi before a Mookie Betts single brought home Bradley Jr.
Dustin Pedroia’s double one batter later knocked in Vazquez, but when Betts ignored a stop sign at third base, a strong relay throw from shortstop Troy Tulowitzki to catcher Russell Martin nailed the runner at home.
It looked like the Jays were on the verge of another heartbreaking defeat after squandering a three-run cushion until Pearce brought home Carrera in the eighth.
Ryan Tepera pitched a perfect eighth before Roberto Osuna set down the Red Sox in order on just eight pitches in the ninth for his 23rd save.
“A one-run game here is nothing. A three-run game is nothing here because you’re staring at that monster out there,” Gibbons said. “That’s huge. And then any time we get to Osuna, whose been on a nice little roll, we feel pretty good.”
The Blue Jays were handed another victory of sorts when the Red Sox pushed Chris Sale’s scheduled Thursday start back to Friday. By that time, the Jays will be safely in Cleveland to start a weekend series against Edwin Encarnacion and the Indians.