At one point Friday night, the Red Sox had a 2-0 lead over the Blue Jays in their first game at Rogers Centre in nearly two years.
Nathan Eovaldi, making his 22nd start of the season for the Sox, got off to a strong start in the opener of this four-game weekend series by retiring 12 of the first 15 batters he faced over four impressive, scoreless innings.
The Boston lineup, meanwhile, was matched up against rookie starter Alek Manoah for Toronto. After managing just one hit the first time through the order, Alex Verdugo led off the top side of the fourth with a line-drive double.
Verdugo advanced to third on a J.D. Martinez groundout and scored from third on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Xander Bogaerts to give the Sox the first lead of the night.
An inning later, Marwin Gonzalez reached base via a one-out infield single, moved up to second on a walk drawn by Christian Vazquez, and came in to score from second on a two-out RBI single courtesy of Enrique Hernandez.
Another free pass to Verdugo loaded the bases for the slumping — but still threatening J.D. Martinez, but Manoah managed to escape the jam by getting the All-Star slugger to weakly pop out to first base.
At that point, exactly halfway through the nine-inning contest, the Red Sox found themselves in possession of a 2-0 lead with a dealing Eovaldi seemingly on his way to a quality inning.
Instead, the bottom fell out for Eovaldi — and the Sox — in the latter half of the fifth, resulting in this game completely turning on its head.
There, back-to-back-to-back doubles from Toronto’s 7, 8, 9 hitters (Alejandro Kirk, Randal Grichuk, and Breyvic Valera) brought in their first two runs of the night to knot things up at 2-2, though they were not done there.
Eovaldi got George Springer to fly out, intentionally walked Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to set up a double play, and struck out Marcus Semien on three pitches for the second out. But the veteran right-hander was unable to finish the job, as he served up an RBI single to Bo Bichette, a two-run double to Teoscar Hernandez, and a two-run home run down the left field line to Lourdes Gurriel Jr.
Just like that, on the back of three straight run-scoring hits with two outs, the Blue Jays jumped out to a 7-2 lead and that subsequently marked the end of the line for Eovaldi as he got the quick hook from Red Sox manager Alex Cora.
Finishing with a final pitch count of 86 (57 strikes), the 31-year-old hurler wound up surrendering a season-high seven runs — all of which were earned — on eight hits, two walks, and four strikeouts over just 4 2/3 of work.
In relief of Eovaldi, newcomer Hansel Robles got the first call out of the Boston bullpen, although he certainly did not stop the bleeding. After issuing a single to Kirk, the righty plunked Grichuk on the elbow with a 96 mph fastball, sparking some drama as the Blue Jays dugout took exception to the beaning.
Though nothing came of Robles’ extra-curriculars sans both dugouts receiving warnings from home plate umpire Jim Wolf, the Jays tacked on two more runs with a 2-RBI double off the bat of Springer, thus capping off a nine-run bottom of the fifth for Toronto.
From there, Hunter Renfroe clobbered a two-run home run off Blue Jays reliever Ryan Borucki to cut the deficit to five runs at 9-4 in the top of the sixth, but the right fielder’s 18th big fly of the season did not make much of a difference in the end.
That being the case because after Austin Davis allowed one run to cross the plate in the bottom half of the sixth, Renfroe popped out with two outs and the bases loaded in the top of the seventh.
Martin Perez — on the same day he was demoted to the Red Sox bullpen and just one day after his start against the Tigers — took over for Davis and yielded one additional run on two hits in the seventh.
And in the eighth, Jonathan Arauz became the fourth position player to pitch for the Red Sox this season, and he also allowed one more run to score to make it a 12-4 contest in favor of the Blue Jays, which would go on to be Friday’s final score.
Of the 12 pitches (eight strikes) Arauz threw, four were identified by sliders and three were identified as curveballs. He topped out at 43.7 mph.
Anyway, with the loss, the Red Sox have now dropped seven of their last eight games and have fallen to 64-47 on the season as a result. They are now 2 1/2 games back of the Rays for first place in the American League East.
Next up: Doubleheader on-deck
The Sox and Jays will play two at Rogers Centre on Saturday, with Game 1 scheduled to begin at 3:07 p.m. eastern time and Game 2 to follow at 7:07 p.m. ET.
Right-hander Nick Pivetta is slated to face off against left-hander Robbie Ray in the day cap, while righty Tanner Houck will square off against fellow right-hander Jose Berrios in the night cap.
Both games will be broadcast on NESN.
(Picture of Nathan Eovaldi: Cole Burston/Getty Images)