Blue Jays’ rally falls short as Red Sox avoid sweep


Boston jumps in front in standings

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Toronto had the brooms out in the hopes of a rare sweep over the Boston Red Sox, but the visitors spoiled the party in extra innings on Wednesday night in a game that took just shy of four hours.

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Three runs in the 10th off Toronto’s struggling bullpen prevented an eighth Toronto win over the Red Sox in 10 tries this season as the Sox left town with a 6-5 win and a slight edge in the standings.

After Jays closer Jordan Romano got himself out of a jam in the ninth, David Phelps couldn’t find the strike zone, which led to all kinds of trouble. Phelps walked a pair to start the top of the 11th, loading the bases thanks to the runner who was already placed on second base. Phelps then hit J.D. Martinez to put the Red Sox ahead again.

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Tim Mayza relieved Phelps and got Boston to hit into a double play, including an out at the plate, but the Sox snuffed out any thoughts of Jays heroics in the bottom of the inning when Verdugo knocked in a couple more by finding the gap in left. That sent many of the remaining fans in attendance streaming for the exits even though the Jays weren’t quite done and scored a pair in the bottom of the frame.

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Both teams had to rally to force extras. After the Jays had led 1-0 and 2-1, Jays ace Alek Manoah surrendered a two-run home run to Alex Verdugo in the sixth inning, giving the Sox a lead that held up until Raimel Tapia bounced a ball just in front of a diving Sox centre fielder Jackie Bradley Jr., scoring pinch-runner Bradley Zimmer. That eighth-inning hit had followed a Lourdes Gurriel Jr. double.

The Jays were coming off a dynamic walkoff win a night earlier.

Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said after this one: “It’s like playing playoff games every day … And that’s all good. It’s not going to stop.”

Toronto got on the board first when Santiago Espinal singled to score Alejandro Kirk after battling off a few pitches from Canadian starter Nick Pivetta.

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Boston had tied it after Manoah had cruised through the first two innings. A weak grounder down the third base line by Franchy Cordero was the first hit Manoah allowed. Cordero then stole second and Kirk air-mailed a throw into centre field, sending him to third base. Even though George Springer made a fine catch off a long fly ball to centre field, it was enough to score a run.

Springer wasn’t done. He later made another spectacular grab and also led off the bottom of the fifth with a line-drive home run over the fence in left field for another one-run Jays’ lead. It didn’t last long, thanks to Verdugo.

The game had some drama when Pivetta threw inside for the second time in the game against Kirk, this time hitting him on the elbow. Boston pitched inside a lot to the red-hot Kirk in the series and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. appeared to have seen enough. Guerrero came out of the dugout to yell at Pivetta, who fired back with some words of his own and the benches cleared before cooler heads prevailed.

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Pivetta managed to get out of the inning unscathed despite loading up the bases. Afterward he said he doesn’t throw inside often and said it was “unwarranted” the way some Jays reacted.

Pivetta went six innings, surrendering five hits, two earned runs and striking out five.

Manoah gave up six hits and two earned runs, striking out six in seven innings.

ROMO BRINGS EXPERIENCE

Veteran reliever Sergio Romo was in uniform and ready to play on Wednesday. Romo, 39, is on his eighth team and seventh following nine excellent years with the San Francisco Giants. Romo had a couple of choices when he was cut loose by the Seattle Mariners recently, but said the Jays were an easy pick for a variety of reasons. Chiefly, he wants to win it all for a fourth time after three World Series triumphs for the Giants where he served as setup man or closer.

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Romo is also close with Jays manager Charlie Montoyo and is excited about the roster, including the dynasty players he noted were the sons of players he competed against.

Romo took in Tuesday’s comeback win from a bar at Rogers Centre and said he was “stoked” and got to combine being a baseball fan with the anticipation of knowing sometime soon he could be out on the field helping the young Jays.

Romo is quite the personality (he chatted with the media for about 20 minutes pre-game after hanging out with the likes of Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette and Teoscar Hernandez in the clubhouse) and should be able to bring some savvy and knowledge to one of baseball’s youngest groups.

Only ex-Jay Joe Smith has made more career appearances amongst active players than Romo.

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He knows he’s not the pitcher he once was, but believes he can still help and is better than his 2022 numbers (8.16 ERA vs. 3.20 career, 11.3 hits per nine innings vs. 7.2 career) are partly the product of some bad luck while in Seattle with another extremely young group.

The one-time all-star said he nearly signed with Toronto as a free agent a couple of years ago and was happy to choose them now.

Clad in a Manoah t-shirt, Romo joked that his oldest son (who is 16, with his youngest of five children being 15 months) told him “you can’t retire, you still strike guys out.”

He’ll get a chance to prove it in Toronto for a team that needs all the help it can get in the bullpen.

JANSEN NEARING RETURN

The Jays have a huge luxury in boasting three strong catchers in Kirk (who was batting .400 since May 24 heading in), young Gabriel Moreno (.324 in his first 11 games) and Danny Jansen, but don’t expect them to move one of them out. General manager Ross Atkins met the media pre-game and said the team isn’t even getting that many calls about any of the catchers because other teams know the Jays value them extremely highly.

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Atkins said Jansen, who clubbed seven home runs in just 19 games before getting injured, should be in the minors for rehab games sometime in the next week.

AROUND THE BASES

Good news via Jays broadcaster Dan Shulman via Twitter: Shulman tweeted his broadcast partner Buck Martinez completed his final cancer treatment on Tuesday and hopes to be back sometime after the all-star break … The Jays announced plans for the first Canada Day weekend at the ballpark since 2019. There will be a Springer red replica jersey for the first 15,000 fans Friday, a Vlad & Dad dual bobblehead for the first 15,000 at the early game Saturday and a pre-game ceremony honouring Canadian Russell Martin Friday … From Sportsnet’s Chris Black: Ross Stripling’s June ERA of 1.59 was the fifth-lowest June ERA by a Jays starter ever. Jim Clancy’s 1.27 in 1982 led the way.

@WolstatSun

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