The ugly got uglier for the Red Sox Thursday afternoon as they dropped the finale of their six-game homestand to the Blue Jays, 7-2, extending their losing streak to seven games. It is the longest losing skid since dropping the last eight games of the disastrous 2012 season.
Left-hander Jon Lester, who entered the season as the ace of the staff, took the loss, falling to 4-6 as his ERA rose from 2.67 to 3.36. In 6 1/3 innings he gave up a season-high seven earned runs on 10 hits, one less than his season high, and two walks with three strikeouts. He now has six losses in starts this season compared to eight in 33 starts last season.
Lester allowed two home runs – on back-to-back pitches in the first inning to Melky Cabrera and Jose Bautista. Entering the game he had allowed just three home runs in his previous nine starts, spanning 60 2/3 innings.
It got worse for Lester, though. In the third he gave up five runs – matching a season high for Sox pitchers in an inning this season – as the Blue Jays batted around. After throwing 16 pitches in the first inning, he needed 30 pitches in the second. Lester didn’t throw a curveball until his 41st pitch of the game, getting Brett Lawrie to hit into a fielder’s choice scoring the fifth run of the inning.
The Sox scored a run in the first, cutting their deficit in half, as Dustin Pedroia led off with a double, went to third on David Ortiz’s ground-out and scored on Jonny Gomes’ single. The Sox added another run in the second on Xander Bogaerts’ lead-off home run, his third of the season.
But, by then, the damage was done.
Including Lawrie’s fielder’s choice in the second, Lester retired 12 straight batters before Kevin Pillar’s one-out single in the sixth. But Lester’s effort was too little, too late.
Jays left-hander Mark Buehrle earned the win, improving to 8-1 with a 2.16 ERA. He went seven innings, giving up two runs on seven hits with no walks, five strikeouts, and a home run.
The Sox were just 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position.
Red Sox pitchers have allowed the opponents to score first in 26 of 46 games this season. The Sox are 5-21 in those games. They are 10-17 at Fenway Park.
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• Lester retired 12 in a row from the second out of the second inning before Kevin Pillar’s one-out single in the sixth.
• Two runs down after the top of the first, the Sox cut the Blue Jays deficit in half when Pedroia opened the game with a double, took third on Ortiz’s ground out and scored on Gomes single.
• Lester worked behind for most of his outing. He faced 30 batters but threw first-pitch strikes to just 10 batters, including just three of the first 15 when the Blue Jays scored all their runs.
• The Sox were 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position.
• Jose Bautista went 3-for-5 with a home run, two runs scored, and RBI. He leads all major leaguers with 14 home runs as a visitor at Fenway since the start of 2010, and has reached base safely in all but one of his 48 games this season.
• Xander Bogaerts went 1-for-4 with his third home run of the season. He extended his on-base streak to 10 games in which he is batting .378, going 14-for-37, with three doubles, a triple, two home runs, four RBI, and two walks. He has nine hits in his last 18 at-bats, including two doubles and two home runs.
• The Sox haven’t scored first in a game since May 14 at Minnesota, covering their seven-game losing streak. The Sox are 5-21 when their opponent scores first.
AROUND THE BASES:
• This was the Sox first winless homestand of at least six games since June 10-15, 1994, when they went 0-3 to the Orioles and 0-3 to the Twins.
• This was the first time the Sox were swept in back-to-back series at home since April 17-21, 2012, when they went 0-2 to the Rangers and 0-2 to the Yankees.
• This was the first time the Blue Jays swept the Sox at Fenway since Sept. 7-9, 2012.
• This was the Sox fourth straight loss to the Jays.
• With a season-low three strikeouts, Lester snapped a streak of nine straight starts with six or more strikeouts (which had tied his career best, along with nine starts from Jun 10 – July 30, 2010).
• Jackie Bradley went 0-for-4 with a strikeout, leaving four runners on base, and is batting .201 for the season.
• Dustin Pedroia led off with his team-leading 17th double of the season. He has hit safely in 10 of his last 11 games, batting .283 going 13-for-46 with four doubles, a home run, four RBI, and five walks.
• Burke Badenhop pitched one-third of an inning, extended his scoreless streak to 18 1/3 innings over 15 games.
• A.J. Pierzynski threw out Kevin Pillar trying to steal second in the eighth inning. It was the eighth basestealer in 21 attempts Pierzynski has thrown out, a 38 percent caught rate.
• The Blue Jays lead all visiting teams with 51 home runs at Fenway since the beginning of 2010.
• Third baseman Will Middlebrooks is on the DL with a fractured right index finger. He is eligible to be activated June 1.
• Left-hander Felix Doubront is on the DL with a left shoulder strain. He is eligible to be activated June 5.
The Red Sox open a three-game series at Tampa Bay Friday at 7:10 p.m. Right-hander John Lackey (5-3, 4.01 ERA) is scheduled to start, opposed by Rays right-hander Chris Archer (3-2, 4.59 ERA).
Lackey has faced the Rays once already this season, earning the win. He went eight innings, giving up two runs on six hits and a walk with five strikeouts. It was his second straight outing of eight innings, the first time he had done so with the Red Sox. He is 13-7 (.650) in his career against the Rays.