The Red Sox squandered another late lead in Monday’s series opener against the Blue Jays, but it was not enough to hold them down. Thanks to some more late-game heroics from Alex Verdugo, Boston defeated Toronto by a final score of 6-5 at Fenway Park to improve to 16-14 on the season.
With Jose Berrios starting for the Jays, the Sox drew first blood in their half of the first inning. Verdugo led off with a hard-hit double and immediately scored from second on another two-base hit from Masataka Yoshida. Justin Turner followed by plating Yoshida on an opposite-field RBI single to give his side a 2-0 lead right out of the gate.
It did not take long for Toronto to respond, though. As Corey Kluber made his sixth start of the season for Boston, Danny Jansen and Kevin Kiermaier drew a pair of walks to put runners at first and second with two outs in the top of the second. Bo Bichette then got his productive night at the plate started by crushing a 312-foot three-run home run over the Green Monster to put the Blue Jays up, 3-2.
While it appeared as though Kluber was about to have another rough go of it, he was able to settle in a bit after getting through the first. The veteran right-hander allowed just the three earned runs on five hits and four walks to go along with seven strikeouts over 5 2/3 innings of work.
After putting up zeroes from the top of the third through the middle of the fifth, Kluber came back out for the sixth and recorded the first out of the inning before issuing a five-pitch walk to Jansen. Having already thrown a season-high 104 pitches (59 strikes) to that point in the contest, the 37-year-old was given the hook in favor of Brennan Bernardino.
Bernardino ended things in the top of the sixth by retiring the only two batters he faced. Moments later, Jarren Duran led off the bottom of the sixth by taking Berrios 434 feet to dead center for his second home run of the year. The ball left Duran’s bat at a blistering 109.1 mph and pulled Boston back even with Toronto at three runs apiece.
The stalemate did not last long, however. After Triston Casas drew a one-out walk off Berrios, Enmanuel Valdez followed by launching a go-ahead, two-run shot 427 feet into the center field bleachers for the first home run of his big-league career. Valdez’s 106 mph blast gave the Red Sox a 5-3 lead going into the seventh.
Chris Martin, making his first relief appearance since April 12 after being activated from the injured list on Sunday, took over for Bernardino and worked his way around a bases-loaded jam by getting the pinch-hitting Alejandro Kirk to ground out to himself for the final out of the inning.
Josh Winckowski came on for the eighth and got the first out by getting Jansen to ground out to Enrique Hernandez at short. Hernandez, who made a fantastic diving grab and throw from his knees in the left field grass to nab Jansen, them made two costly throwing errors.
Following a Cavan Biggio double, Hernandez fielded a grounder from Kiermaier but made a poor throw to Casas at first. Biggio scored as a result to cut Toronto’s deficit to one. Kiermaier moved up 90 feet on a Bichette single (his fifth hit of the night) to put runners at first and second for Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
Guerrero Jr. roped another grounder in the direction of Hernandez, who hustled over to second to get the force out but airmailed his throw to first in an attempt to finish off the double play. The ball sailed well over Casas’ head and landed in the Red Sox dugout. As a result, Kiermaier was able to score from second to tie the score at 5-5.
Winckowski, who was only charged with one of those two runs, got through the rest of the eighth unscathed and then retired the side in order in the top of the ninth. Jordan Romano took over for Nate Pearson out of the Blue Jays bullpen in the following half-inning, but he was not on the mound for long.
On the third pitch he saw from Romano to lead things off, Verdugo came through in the clutch yet again by lacing a 385-foot line-drive to right-center field that barely cleared the bullpen fence and lifted the Red Sox to a 6-5 walk-off victory.
Verdugo’s fifth home run was good for his third walk-off hit of the year and his second in Boston’s last three games. He finished the night going 2-for-5 with one RBI and two runs scored. On the flip side, Winckowski was credited with the winning decision.
Next up: Kikuchi vs. Houck
Winners of three straight and now at two games over .500 for the first time this season, the Red Sox will look to take the first two games of this four-game set from the Blue Jays on Tuesday night. Right-hander Tanner Houck will get the start for Boston while left-hander Yusei Kikuchi is expected to do the same for Toronto.
First pitch from Fenway Park is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN and TBS.
(Picture of Alex Verdugo: Winslow Townson/Getty Images)