The Toronto Blue Jays were reminded Monday night why a close lead late never feels safe against this year's Boston Red Sox.
The refresher came courtesy of Alex Verdugo, whose go-ahead, two-run home run in the eighth inning carried the Red Sox past the visiting Blue Jays 5-4 in the opener of a four-game series. The victory was Boston's major-league-leading 33rd coming from behind and second in as many days.
"It's hard to get 27 outs against us. We know that," Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. "We have some quality hitters from top to bottom, and obviously this is a tough place to play. You can feel the energy."
Seizing momentum early will be key for the Blue Jays when the teams meet again Tuesday. Left-hander Robbie Ray (8-5, 3.12 ERA) will take the mound for Toronto seeking to rebound from a loss to Boston last Wednesday, when he allowed four runs over five innings in his team's finale at its temporary home park in Buffalo.
Right-hander Garrett Richards -- the winner in that contest -- goes for the Red Sox. Richards (6-5, 4.99 ERA) surrendered four runs over 5 2/3 innings on Wednesday.
The Blue Jays took their fifth loss in six games Monday, a skid that has lowered their record to 49-47 as Friday's trade deadline approaches. Toronto seized a 4-3 advantage in the contest on Bo Bichette's two-run home run in the fifth, but a short start by Thomas Hatch (3 2/3 innings) in his season debut led to an overreliance on the bullpen that came to a head when Trevor Richards served up Verdugo's blast.
"The moment Hatch doesn't go five innings, you've got to piece everything together," Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said. "The whole bullpen actually did a nice job. Richards made one mistake."
The misfire dropped Toronto to 4-8 against Boston this season.
Conversely, the Red Sox are on a roll, winning six of their past seven overall. On Sunday, Boston was no-hit over seven innings before rallying from 4-0 down in the eighth to beat the New York Yankees.
Verdugo's game-winning homer Monday was his 10th long ball of the season and first since June 15.
"I was really trying not to do too much," he said. "It's ironic."
Rafael Devers also homered -- his fifth in his past seven games. Devers leads the major leagues with 81 RBIs, one ahead of Toronto's Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who remained on his heels with a run-scoring single.
Prior to his performance against the Red Sox last time out, Ray was unscored upon over two consecutive outings, throwing a combined 13 2/3 innings of five-hit ball in wins over the Tampa Bay Rays and the Texas Rangers. The southpaw is 2-2 with a 2.10 ERA in four starts this month, whiffing 29 over 25 2/3 innings.
Richards, meanwhile, hasn't pitched a scoreless outing since May 13. The veteran righty is 2-2 with a 6.44 ERA since the start of June.
--Field Level Media