The Red Sox won three games against the Blue Jays all of last season. They surpassed that total by completing a four-game sweep of their division rivals on a chilly Thursday night at Fenway Park.
Aided by a five-run second inning and a solid start from Brayan Bello, Boston defeated Toronto by a final score of 11-5. With the victory, the Red Sox extended their winning streak to six and improved to 19-14 to get to five games over .500 for the first time this season.
After dominating the Red Sox to the tune of a 2.65 ERA in six starts (34 innings) last year, Blue Jays starter Kevin Gausman did not have the same kind of fortune this time around. The Boston bats instead throttled the veteran right-hander for eight runs in just 3 2/3 innings.
Masataka Yoshida, who signed with the Red Sox as a free agent over the winter, introduced himself to Gausman by opening the scoring in the first inning with a 400-foot solo shot into the home bullpen. By hitting his sixth home run of the season, Yoshida extended his hitting streak to 14 consecutive games, which is the longest in the majors.
An inning later, Triston Casas and Enmanuel Valdez both reached base to put runners on the corners with one out. Reese McGuire drove in Casas by blooping a softly-hit RBI single to center field and Raimel Tapia brought in Valdez by beating out a would-be double play. Tapia then stole second base and advanced to third on a wild pitch before scoring his side’s fourth run on a Yoshida RBI single that snuck under the glove of second baseman Cavan Biggio.
Justin Turner followed with a base hit of his own to put runners at first and third for Rafael Devers, who laced a 110.9 mph two-run double down the right field line. Both Yoshida and Turner scored on Boston’s seventh hit of the inning, which made it a 6-0 contest going into the third.
The Red Sox maintained that six-run lead through three innings. With one out in the top of the fourth, starter Brayan Bello served up a towering solo blast to fellow countryman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. It did not take long for Boston to respond, though, as Tapia doubled to lead off the bottom half of the inning and came into score on another RBI single from Yoshida.
Yoshida effectively knocked Gausman out of the game with his third hit of the night. Jarren Duran then plated Yoshida with a run-scoring single off new Blue Jays reliever Tim Mayza to put the Sox up, 8-1.
Bello, however, ran into some trouble in the fifth that may have stemmed from a blister on his right index finger that also bothered him in his last time out. After allowing just one run through the first four innings on Thursday, the young righty issued a one-out walk to Kevin Kiermaier. George Springer followed by reaching base on a Devers fielding error. Bo Bichette pushed across Kiermaier with an RBI single before Guerrero Jr. doubled in Springer. Daulton Varsho then brought in Bichette on a sacrifice fly to cut the deficit to four runs at 8-4.
The fifth inning proved to be Bello’s last. The 23-year-old hurler wound up yielding four runs (two earned) on six hits, one walk, and five strikeouts. He finished with 87 pitches (54 strikes) and was later credited with his first winning decision of the year.
In relief of Bello, Brennan Bernardino received the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen from manager Alex Cora. The lefty retired the side in order in the sixth and recorded the first out of the seventh before making way for John Schreiber, who needed all of 16 pitches (14 strikes) to get out of the inning and put up a zero in the eighth as well.
Turner provided some insurance in the bottom of the eighth with a hard-hit RBI single that scored Tapia. Devers then broke things open by cranking a 408-foot two-run shot to deep right field off reliever Zach Pop for his American League-leading 11th home run of the season and the 150th of his career.
Ryan Brasier surrendered one run on two hits and one walk in the ninth, but ultimately closed it out to put the finishing touches on an 11-5 win and a four-game series sweep.
Boston’s Nos. 2-5 hitters (Yoshida, Turner, Devers, and Duran) each had three hits. McGuire had two while Tapia and Casas each had one as the Red Sox surpassed their season-high in hits with 16 as a team.
Next up: Sale vs. Wheeler in Philly
Coming off a 6-1 homestand, the Red Sox will now hit the road for a two-city, five-game road trip. They will first travel to Philadelphia and open a three-game weekend series against the reigning National League champion Phillies on Friday night.
Left-hander Chris Sale is expected to get the start for Boston in Friday’s series opener opposite Philadelphia right-hander Zach Wheeler.
First pitch from Citizens Bank Park is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. eastern time on NESN.
(Picture of Rafael Devers and Justin Turner: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)