Red Sox sweep away Blue Jays
Jason Bay set a Red Sox record with his 11th straight homer with runners on base and Jon Lester rebounded from two bad outings as Boston completed a three-game sweep of the Toronto Blue Jays with a 5-1 win Thursday night.
Bay hit his 13th homer of the year, a two-run shot in a three-run first inning, and Boston led 5-0 at home before Aaron Hill singled in Toronto's run in the seventh.
The Blue Jays began the series with the most runs in the majors but totalled just five against the Red Sox and suffered their first three-game losing streak of the season.
The sweep cut Toronto's AL East lead to a half-game over Boston, which is 15-2 in its last 17 home games.
Bay, a native of Trail, B.C., broke a tie with Kevin Youkilis and Tony Conigliaro for most consecutive homers by a Red Sox player without a solo shot. He is one behind the major-league record set by Hank Aaron in 1970 and tied by Ken Griffey Jr. in 1999.
"To hit it that far, he's got some strong wrists on him," Boston manager Terry Francona marvelled.
Lester (3-4) had allowed 13 earned runs in 10 innings in losing his previous two starts. On Thursday, he gave up eight hits in 6 1-3 innings but escaped several jams.
"As he got into the flow of the game, he got better," Francona said of Lester. "As he feels good about himself, he'll relax a little bit."
The Blue Jays stranded runners at second base in each of the first four innings as they reached Lester for six hits and a walk.
"I don't think anybody in this clubhouse is happy," Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said before leaving for a three-game series in Atlanta. "We certainly have to put this behind us and move on and go down to Atlanta and see if we can play a little better baseball."
The Jays finally made good with one out in the seventh. A walk and a single put runners at first and second and brought Ramon Ramirez in from the bullpen. Hill then lined an RBI-single to left before Ramirez ended a bases-loaded threat by getting Adam Lind to foul out to Bay in left field.
Robert Ray (1-2) made his fourth major-league start after getting his first victory last Saturday when he gave up one unearned run and three hits in eight innings of a 2-1 win over the Chicago White Sox.
Jacoby Ellsbury led off the first with a double, extending his hitting streak to 16 games. He took third on Dustin Pedroia's groundout and scored on another groundout by David Ortiz.
Youkilis then walked and scored on Bay's homer that hit the top of the five-foot-high fence in front of Boston's bullpen, just beyond the reach of Rios.
"If we are going to be in first place, we will have to beat the Sox and the Yanks," Toronto first baseman Lyle Overbay said. "We can beat these teams. We just have to figure out how."
The Red Sox made it 4-0 in the third on Pedroia's double and Youkilis's RBI single.
They scored their last run in the fifth when Julio Lugo reached on an error by shortstop Marco Scutaro, whose throw pulled first baseman Kevin Millar off the bag. Lugo was out at second on Ellsbury's fielder's choice grounder.
But Ellsbury stole second and scored on Pedroia's single.