It had been only a month, but so many things had changed since the last time the Red Sox saw the Blue Jays.
It was the middle of May and the Jays seemed like they were being smothered by the weight of preseason expectations.
Even after taking two of three from the Sox at Fenway, they were nine games under .500 and 9½ games behind the Sox in the AL East.
Only five teams had scored fewer runs than the Jays had managed to that point, and the only team to allow more was the Houston Astros, the league’s unanimous punching bag.
It took a while, but things eventually clicked for Toronto.
With 22 home runs Edwin Encarnacion emerged as one of the league’s best power hitters and Adam Lind seemed to get on base almost every night, hitting .372 over his previous 30 games dating to May 23.
They Jays ripped off a major league-high 11-game winning streak earlier this month, and came into Fenway on Thursday having won 15 of 19 to get above .500.
From afar, the Red Sox noticed it all.
“I think everybody in the game saw them to be a very strong team,” said Sox manager John Farrell. “Just from the outside looking in, they’re pitching much more consistent. Their bullpen has been outstanding. So the fact that they’re above .500 and they’re clearly in the hunt in this division is not surprising, I don’t think, to anyone.”
Over the course of Thursday’s 7-4 victory, the Sox did everything possible to hose down a scorching Blue Jays team.
By the end of a seven-run, seven-hit second inning, the Blue Jays were in a hole they could hardly see out off.
The Sox batted around as Daniel Nava, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Stephen Drew, Jose Iglesias, and Jacoby Ellsbury all drove in runs in succession, and Dustin Pedroia blew the game open with a two-run homer that helped the Sox cruise to their seventh win in their last eight games at Fenway.
Jays manager John Gibbons was digging into his bullpen by the second inning.
Jays starter Chien-Ming Wang lasted just 1⅔
innings. It was his worst start since the Indians shook him up for eight runs on eight hits four years ago as a Yankee.
Pedroia delivered the knockout punch, jumping on a knee-high, two-strike slider and blasting it over the Green Monster for his fifth homer of the season.
No one on the Sox has picked on the Blue Jays more this season than Pedroia, who is hitting .381 (16 for 42) against Toronto.
He is 9 for 14 over his last four games.
Thanks to the big inning, Sox starter Jon Lester was able to breath easy.
In his previous three starts, Lester gave up 17 runs over 15⅓
Thursday night, he went seven-plus innings, giving up four runs on five hits, using his cutter and his changeup to ring up five strikeouts.
His only hitch, however, seemed to be a significant one.
After giving up back-to-back singles to Rajai Davis and Maicer Izturis in the eighth, he started Emilio Bonifacio with three straight balls.
Farrell visited the mound with a trainer to check on his ace, who was pulled with an apparent injury.
The Sox are treading lightly with righthander Clay Buchholz, who has been out since June 8 with shoulder soreness. After an MRI on Wednesday, the timetable for Buchholz’s return was still unclear.
At the season’s halfway point, the Sox have managed to remain in first place despite injuries up and down the roster. The last time the Sox were in first place 81 games into the season was 2009.Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.