TORONTO -- Marcus Stroman delivered seven strong innings in his return to Rogers Centre, helping the Blue Jays to their third straight victory with a 6-1 win over the Red Sox in Friday's series opener. Stroman allowed one earned run, one walk and struck out three while allowing six hits in his first home appearance since Sept. 26 of last season. The loss was Boston's third in its last four games.
"I love pitching here. I love pitching at the Rogers Centre. I feel great when I'm out there," Stroman said.
Justin Smoak was 2-for-4 and drove in a pair of runs to lead the Blue Jays, who tallied three runs in the fourth and two more in the sixth as they ran away with it in the middle innings. Josh Donaldson and Ryan Goins also had two hits as the American League East leaders pushed their lead to 4 1/2 games over the Yankees, who fell to the Mets.
Red Sox righty Rick Porcello saw his string of struggles in Toronto continue. He took the loss, allowing six runs (five earned) on eight hits over six innings. Porcello is 1-5 in his career at Rogers Centre, and he's surrendered 12 earned runs over eight innings in Toronto this season. Porcello had trouble commanding his curveball throughout the outing.
"I just couldn't get comfortable with it," Porcello said. "I probably only threw two or three for strikes the entire game. Either I was casting it and it was up, or I was spiking it and it was down and never really started as a strike. They weren't very competitive pitches."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Smoak show: The Blue Jays' first baseman built on a 1-0 lead in the fourth. With two runners on and nobody out, Smoak lashed a double to the wall in center field, bringing home Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. He'd later score to give the Blue Jays a 4-0 lead after four innings. Of Smoak's 59 hits this season, 31 have gone for extra bases. Smoak also flashed some leather, making a diving stab on a line drive to rob Travis Shaw of a hit in the ninth.
"You bail the pitcher out of innings, that's huge. And sometimes it gets overlooked. But you need that. Teams that win championships play good defence," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said.
Mookie continues September surge:Mookie Betts continues to sizzle in September for the Red Sox. The leadoff man went 2-for-4 on a night the Red Sox were otherwise quiet with the bats. Betts is hitting .421 (24-for-57) this month, with two homers and eight RBIs. In that span, he's raised his average from .274 to .290. Betts also started in right field for the first time this season, as the Red Sox continue to keep their options open on how to align their outfield in the future. He made one misplay on a triple to right by Goins. Betts got caught in between, as he ranged back to the wall and the carom got well past him.
"Whether he [tries to] catch it, whether he backs off and plays it off the wall is yet to be determined," said interim manager Torey Lovullo. "I think as he knows his spacing [and] he gets to be more familiar with his area, we may see him make it a little bit differently.
"That's why he's out there. We want to get a look at him, we want to see how it plays out. Unfortunately, the play wasn't made. He tried to catch the ball and you can never fault that. The effort was there. It was one of those situations where I think it will get better in time."
Goins keeps it goin': Goins tripled and singled at the plate while cashing in a run and scoring once himself. The Blue Jays' shortstop, known for his hot glove, has come on strong with the bat of late, and on Friday registered his second multihit game in a row. In his last eight games, Goins is hitting .320.
Bradley's slump continues:Jackie Bradley Jr. has gone from the hottest hitter on the Red Sox to the coldest. The outfielder went 0-for-3 and is 1-for-30 since Sept. 8. The slump started the day after Bradley went 4-for-4 to continue the best streak of his career. Bradley did make solid contact in his final at-bat on Friday, flying out to center.
"It's crazy, the love that Toronto has for me. It's incredible." -- Stroman, on the crowd's response to his first start at home in almost one yearMore >
When Josh Rutledge hit a slow roller to Donaldson at third with one out in the fifth, he was originally ruled out at first on an RBI groundout. But Lovullo called for a challenge, and the call was overturned to an RBI single.
WHAT'S NEXT Red Sox: Lefty Wade Miley draws the start for Saturday's 4:07 p.m. ET game. Miley has pitched well over his last two outings, giving up five earned runs over 16 innings. Both of Miley's starts against Toronto this season have come at Rogers Centre, and he is 1-1 with a 6.55 ERA.
Blue Jays:R.A. Dickey will make the start on Saturday afternoon. The veteran knuckleballer turned his season around at the All-Star break, and he hasn't looked back since, going 7-1 with a 2.98 ERA. His loss came during his last start, when he allowed five runs over 7 2/3 innings vs. the Yankees.