TORONTO – In a month that continues to go from bad to worse, the Toronto Blue Jays came agonizingly close to a stirring comeback win Monday night before literally falling short.
Another foot or so and Edwin Encarnacion’s ninth-inning blast to centre would have been a game-winning home run instead of a double off the wall to tie the game at 3-3.
And the Jays’ joy at the three-run outburst in the ninth was short-lived when Boston’s Yoenis Cespedes singled home the winning run in the 10th inning for a 4-3 victory that ended the Red Sox’s eight-game losing streak.
Shortstop Brock Holt singled off Aaron Sanchez (2-1) with one out and then stole second — surviving an instant replay review — and third before Cespedes sent the ball past a diving Munenori Kawasaki with two outs for the winning run.
“We made a run at it. We needed another foot or two on Eddie’s ball,” said Toronto manager John Gibbons. “And then we couldn’t shut them down (in) that extra inning. So disappointing, definitely disappointing.”
Toronto, which is 6-15 this month, has now lost nine of its last 12 games and 11 of its last 16. It failed to score more than three runs for the 13th time this month.
The opposition scored first for the fifth straight game, dropping Toronto’s record to 20-39 on the season when it falls behind out of the gate.
It marked the fifth time in the last six home games that the Jays had gone to extra innings. Their record is 3-2 in such games over that stretch.
The Jays (66-65) had hoped to put an end to their August swoon given their success this season against Boston. Toronto had won six straight against the Red Sox and 10 of the 13 meetings between the two prior to Monday.
Left-hander Craig Breslow pitched the 10th for his first save, despite putting the tying run on via a walk.
Boston (57-74) was in control going into the ninth, with starter Clay Buchholz holding the Jays to two hits over eight innings and homers by Mookie Betts and Dustin Pedroia giving the visitors a 3-0 lead.
Buchholz struck out four and walked two in a near flawless outing that kept the dormant Jays offence in check until the ninth, when he loaded the bases on back-to-back Jose Reyes and Melky Cabrera singles and a Jose Bautista walk with one out.
Closer Koji Uehara was unable to clean up the mess, allowing one run on an Adam Lind forceout and then two more on the Encarnacion double. Uehara (6-4) blew the save but still got the win.
Boston manager John Farrell praised Cespedes’ heroics.
“Cespy has been so good since coming over to us (from Oakland), getting RBIs in key moments, late-inning situations,” he said. “Once again, today, with a game-winner. Whether it’s been with a base hit or a long ball, he’s been big for us late in games.”
Buchholz had outduelled J.A. Happ, who struck out eight and gave up five hits in six solid innings before a crowd of 26,041 with the roof open at Rogers Centre. But the Jays left-hander fell victim to the long ball in the fifth inning.
“Happ was really good,” said Gibbons. “Just those two swings got him.”
Sanchez also paid the price for a mistake, leaving a breaking ball in the strike zone for Cespedes.
Buchholz, who had lost his last three starts, had hoped to notch his 11th career win against the Blue Jays — the most he has against any team. Instead he was left with a no-decision and remains 1-3 against Toronto this season.
Singles by Danny Valencia in the third inning, Lind in the seventh, Reyes and Cabrera in the ninth and a walk in the fifth were the only blemishes on Buchholz’s scorecard.
He was helped by stellar fielding plays by second baseman Pedroia, shortstop Holt and third baseman Will Middlebrooks.
“Clay was outstanding,” said Farrell. “He was very efficient. A lot of balls on the ground. I thought we played outstanding infield defence behind him.”
It was Boston’s first victory since a 10-7 decision over the Houston Astros on Aug. 16. The Red Sox were coming off a 2-9 homestand that saw them outscored 62-43 — with 19 of those Boston runs coming in the two victories.
Happ, in his 20th start of the season, struck out three of the seven batters he faced over the first two innings. But he ran into trouble in the third when he gave up a single and walk to open the inning. Left-fielder Cabrera came to the rescue, throwing out catcher Christian Vasquez as he tried to take third on a deep fly ball from Pedroia.
Boston finally got to Happ in the fifth when Betts, the No. 8 hitter, slammed a 3-2 ball deep for a solo homer over the left field fence with one out for only his second career homer. Happ walked the next batter and Pedroia made him pay one out later with his sixth homer of the season, depositing the ball in the Jays’ bullpen for a 3-0 lead.
The Red Sox now have 12 homers at Rogers Centre in 2014, their most at a visiting park.
Happ walked two batters while throwing 111 pitches including 66 strikes before giving way to Todd Redmond.
“It’s definitely tough to take,” said Happ. “I felt better than that. They put some good swings on a couple of balls but other than that I felt like I was executing pretty well.”
Abandoned by his offence, Happ was 1-3 in his six previous outings since the all-star break. He was given just 12 runs in support during those starts.
Jays pitchers came into the game with a 4.79 earned-run average in August, third highest in the American League. And the Toronto offence ranked last in runs (62) and homers (10).
The Jays escaped facing Red Sox slugger David Ortiz and his 461 career homers. Ortiz, who leads all visitors at Rogers Centre with 37 home runs, was given a day off after an eventful weekend that saw him hit by pitches on the elbow Saturday and on the foot Sunday.