Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista gave Toronto starter Drew Hutchison an early lead by blasting a three-run homer in the first inning.
It was more than enough support for the rookie right-hander, who held the visiting Boston Red Sox to five hits over seven innings as Toronto avoided a sweep with a 5-1 victory Sunday afternoon at Rogers Centre.
"Hutch continues to mature right in front of our eyes," said Blue Jays manager John Farrell. "Staked to a five-run lead, he kept going out and putting up zeroes and keeping the momentum on our side."
The Blue Jays added two more runs in the second inning to chase Daniel Bard from the game.
Toronto (28-26) ended a two-game skid with the victory and moved into a tie with fourth-place Boston (28-26). Both clubs are three games behind the first-place Tampa Bay Rays in the tight American League East.
'Once again I was able to find my arm slot and get into a good rhythm out there.' — Blue Jays' starter Drew Hutchison after his solid 7-inning effort
Hutchison (5-2), who gave up a solo homer to Kelly Shoppach in the fifth inning, allowed one earned run, walked one and struck out five. It was his fourth win in five games and lowered his earned-run average by almost a half-point to 4.35.
"Once again I was able to find my arm slot and get into a good rhythm out there," Hutchison said. "The offence did a great job putting numbers on the board early. I just stayed with [catcher] J.P. [Arencibia] really and the defence was playing great so it was another good outing."
Bard (5-6) was wild from the start, walking the first two batters before Bautista belted a no-doubter to deep left field. Bautista connected on a 3-2 pitch for his 14th homer of the season.
Rounding into form
He has rounded into form after a slow start to the season.
"When he stays with a consistent approach and he has an understanding of what the strike zone is going to be, he's one of the most feared hitters in baseball," Farrell said.
Bard recorded just five outs before he was pulled. He finished with six walks and hit both Yunel Escobar and Edwin Encarnacion on the right hand with pitches.
Both players stayed in the game although Encarnacion was replaced in the fifth inning by Jeff Mathis. X-rays were inconclusive and the team said the designated hitter would be day-to-day with the bruised hand.
The Blue Jays scored two runs in the second inning without getting a hit. Colby Rasmus scored on a bases-loaded walk and Arencibia came across when Bard hit Encarnacion.
Bard has lost his last four decisions against the Blue Jays. He was relieved by Franklin Morales, who got out of the jam when David Cooper popped up with the bases loaded.
Home plate umpire Mike Winters warned both benches after Boston's Kevin Youkilis was drilled on the shoulder in the sixth. The veteran infielder was the fourth player hit by a pitch in the game.
After being hit, Youkilis yelled at Hutchison but nothing came of the exchange.
Youkilis did not speak to reporters following the game, but Boston manager Bobby Valentine denied talk of retaliation or bad blood.
"I didn't think any of them were intentional," said Valentine, who had pulled Bard after the pitcher had hit his second batter. "The last thing I wanted to do was see anybody get hurt."
Hutchison showed poise in the sixth inning after putting two runners on base. After Kevin Youkilis was hit by a pitch and Mike Aviles singled to right field, Hutchison got Nick Punto to fly out to end the frame.
Relievers Darren Oliver, Francisco Cordero and Casey Janssen completed the six-hitter.
Both teams had six hits on the day. The game took two hours 52 minutes to play.