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The Boston Red Sox erupted for three runs in the top of the 11th inning to drop the Blue Jays 7-4 in the first of a three-game series Friday night.
Boston shortstop Xander Bogaerts, who entered the game late as a defensive replacement, singled in Hanley Ramirez with the decisive run.
After scoring just five runs in their previous three games, the Jays fired up their offence early against Doug Fister, making his second start of the season after the Red Sox claimed him off the waiver wire last week.
Jose Bautista led off with a sharply hit single to the left-field corner and, two batters later, Josh Donaldson drew a walk to bring up first baseman Justin Smoak, who entered Friday leading the Jays in most major offensive categories. When Fister delivered a 1-1 fastball over the outside corner of the plate, Smoak launched it over the left-field fence to put the Jays ahead 3-0.
Smoak’s 22nd homer of the season extended his major league record for most home runs by a switch-hitter before the all-star break.
The Jays’ lead proved durable, but Estrada spent the early innings flirting with trouble.
After starting the third inning with by walking Tzu-Wei Lin, Estrada also walked third baseman Deven Marrero to bring up Mookie Betts, who leads the Sox in home runs and RBIs. Estrada promptly walked him, too, loading the bases with one out and Boston’s other run producers lining up to face him.
But from there Estrada produced two pop-ups before striking out Mitch Moreland on a 91-m.p.h. fastball to escape the inning.
Estrada lasted three innings without giving up a hit or a run, a performance that recalled former Jay A.J. Burnett. His 2001 no-hitter, delivered while pitching for the then-Florida Marlins, featured nine walks and seven strikeouts.
The fifth inning started with yet another walk before Betts produced Boston’s first hit, a grounder dribbled third down the third base line for an infield single. Second baseman Dustin Pedroia followed with a double to left-centre field to drive in two runs and chase Estrada from the game.
He finished with a career-high seven walks, and the bullpen brought the total to 14 before the four-hour, 44-minute game was done. Before Friday, Estrada had never walked more than five batters in a game, a mark he established in 2013. This season, Estrada has twice walked four batters, most recently last week against Kansas City.
The Jays threatened to extend their lead in the fifth, when a leadoff walk by Bautista and a free pass to Donaldson again brought up Smoak with two runners on and one out.
But this time Fister, who had worked out for the Jays as a free agent earlier this spring, produced a pair of harmless flyball outs to stunt the Jays’ momentum.
Half an inning later, Boston tied the game when Jackie Bradley Jr. hit a leadoff double to left field, then scored on a Marrero single. Two batters after that, Andrew Benintendi singled to bring home Marrero and give the Red Sox their first lead.
It lasted until only until the following frame, when Jays shortstop Troy Tulowitzki turned on an 0-1 fastball from Sox reliever Heath Hembree, sending the pitch over the left-field fence to tie the game 4-4.
The Jays entered Friday last in the American League East, trailing first place Boston by 6 ½ games.