By Gregor Chisholm and Ian Browne
MLB.com |@gregorMLB |
TORONTO -- The Red Sox rallied from five runs down to steal a victory away from the Blue Jays and score an early advantage in the battle for the American League East title with a 8-7 win Friday on Opening Night at Rogers Centre.
Left fielder Brock Holt led the way with a grand slam in the top of the sixth inning that pulled the Red Sox within one. David Ortiz and Hanley Ramirez later added a pair of RBI singles in the seventh inning to cap the comeback and give Toronto's bullpen its third blown save in as many games.
"We feel like we have a good lineup, a deep lineup," Holt said. "We never feel like we're out of a game. Tonight proved that. We put together some good at-bats and were able to come back. It's a big win for us."
Xander Bogaerts went 3-for-4 with a double and three runs scored while Ortiz added a double and a pair of RBIs. Right-hander Matt Barnes picked up the victory after he tossed a scoreless inning of relief and starter Joe Kelly took a no-decision following an outing in which he surrendered seven runs in three-plus frames.
Josh Donaldson also hit a grand slam that initially gave the Blue Jays a 7-2 lead in the fourth inning. Donaldson's second career slam was his third homer of the season as he continues to play through a strained right calf muscle.
Toronto starter Marcus Stroman received a no-decision after he was charged with five runs on six hits over 5 1/3 innings. He left in the sixth with the bases loaded and then could only watch as reliever Jesse Chavez served up the slam to Holt that let the Red Sox back into the game.
"They have a really good lineup, as do we, they were able to kind of shut us down after we scored those runs," Donaldson said. "Our offense started to come alive today, that was nice. I'm not really concerned at all about those guys in the bullpen. I feel like they're going to do a good job, they just have to get acclimated to their surroundings a little bit and I think they're going to be fine."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED The MVP: Donaldson received his American League MVP Award prior to the game and then in the fourth reminded everybody why he was the top choice. Donaldson drilled the first pitch he saw from Kelly over the wall in left for the second grand slam of his career. Toronto scored six runs in the inning to chase Kelly from the game, which included four consecutive singles and a hit batter prior to Donaldson's first slam since June 7, 2013. More >
"It was nice," Donaldson said. "First game back at home, it's nice to be able to do something like that. At the end of the day, we lost the game so there's no really small victories. I feel very confident in our team, in our ability to go out there and win games. I feel like it's going to start turning around for us."
Holt answers: Holt will probably never be known as a home-run hitter. But he's shown some early power this year. His first career slam gave him two homers in his first 11 at-bats of the season. Coming into 2016, Holt had six homers in 1,027 at-bats. His five RBIs were a career high. More >
Starting early:Kevin Pillar set the tone with a leadoff triple to the gap in right-center field. Pillar later came around to score on a sacrifice fly by Edwin Encarnacion as Toronto took an early 1-0 lead. The Blue Jays had just one triple out of the leadoff spot last season, which came courtesy of Ben Revere on Sept. 25, but they only had to wait one home game for the first this year. It was the third triple of Pillar's career.
Boston bullpen lights out: The comeback would not have been possible without the stellar work of the bullpen after Kelly's exit. Five relievers combined on six shutout innings while allowing just two hits. The Red Sox allowed just one baserunner over the final four innings. Craig Kimbrel fired a scoreless ninth inning to earn his first save with the Red Sox. Koji Uehara navigated through the top of Toronto's dangerous lineup in the eighth. Junichi Tazawa, who has struggled mightily against the Blue Jays for most of his career, was dominant in the seventh.More >
"Just five great innings by our bullpen against an offense that's obviously deep and explosive," manager John Farrell said.
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The last time the Red Sox had a grand slam in the same game as their opponent was June 26, 2001, against the Rays. In that game, Greg Vaughn hit a slam for Tampa Bay, while Trot Nixon belted one for Boston.
In 2015, the largest deficit the Red Sox overcame en route to a victory was four runs. It took them just three games to top that this year, coming back from a 7-2 hole on Friday. This is the first time since 1995 the Red Sox have scored six runs or more in their first three games.
The Blue Jays have now lost each of their last five home openers, which is a franchise record. Toronto is 26-14 all-time in home openers, including 16-11 at Rogers Centre.
WHAT'S NEXT Red Sox: Righty Rick Porcello will make his season debut on Saturday against the Blue Jays at 1:07 p.m. ET in hopes of displaying more consistency than he did in his first season in Boston. The sinkerballer didn't pitch well in Spring Training, posting a 9.77 ERA in four starts and giving up 29 hits in 15 2/3 innings. Opponents hit .408 against him.
Blue Jays: Knuckleballer R.A. Dickey will take the mound on Saturday at 1:07 p.m. ET in the middle game against the Red Sox. Dickey is 6-6 with a 4.23 ERA in 22 career appearances vs. Boston. In his last outing, Dickey allowed three runs over five innings against Tampa Bay.
Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.