BOSTON -- The defending American League East champion Blue Jays now have the Red Sox in their sights after Friday night's 5-2 victory in the opener of a three-game series at Fenway Park.
The game ended dramatically, with Blue Jays closer Roberto Osuna striking out Xander Bogaerts on a 99-mph fastball. Bogaerts represented the tying run, and the strikeout ended his 26-game hitting streak.
Backed by a strong starting effort by knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, who earned the win, the third-place Blue Jays trail the Red Sox, tied with the Orioles, by 2 1/2 games in the division. To get to this point, Toronto has reeled off nine wins over its past 11 games. The last time the Jays were this close to first place was May 7.
"One thing we're doing, even through our struggles early on offensively, we're making the starters work," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "It's not easy for them. We haven't really been able to knock too many of them out, that was kind of the difference. But you're starting to see some good signs. The bottom of the lineup is doing some great things for us, which is crucial. The guys are playing good."
Edwin Encarnacion and Devon Travis led Toronto's attack by hitting two-run homers. Encarnacion staked his team to a 2-0 lead with a rocket to center in the first against David Price. Travis provided insurance by smoking his two-run shot over the Green Monster against Koji Uehara in the eighth.
For the second time in less than a week, Dickey no-hit the Red Sox over his first five innings. David Ortiz ended the bid with a double into the corner in right to open the sixth. Dickey (3-6, 4.21 ERA) allowed two hits, an unearned run and five walks while striking out four in his 6 2/3 innings.
Price settled down nicely after the misfire to Encarnacion, but took the loss, giving up three runs (two earned) over seven innings. The lefty ace is 17-3 lifetime against the Jays. After starting the season in a slump, Price has bounced back to turn in five consecutive quality starts. In that span, he has lowered his ERA from 6.75 to 4.88.
Boston has lost three in a row and six of nine.
"It's tough, absolutely," Price said. "We've definitely had a tough stretch of games, whether it's AL East or not. We battled through it. We've had some tough losses, we've had some really good wins. We're still [nine] games over .500, but we've played good baseball, and that's good to see."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED The Ed-Wing: Encarnacion gave the Blue Jays an early lead in the top of the first inning with a two-run shot to left-center field. Toronto's veteran designated hitter has now driven in 12 runs over his last nine games, which brings his season total to a team-high 44. Over those same nine games, Encarnacion is batting .333 (11-for-33), which includes a 3-for-10 mark with runners in scoring position.
"A big home run by Eddie does wonders," Gibbons said. "We haven't been able to do that much lately, but we battled. Travis' home run turned out to be crucial, but we're playing good baseball."
Bogaerts' run finally ends: After the game, Bogaerts was more upset with himself for swinging at ball four than he was about his hitting streak coming to an end. If Bogaerts had been able to stay away from the 3-2 pitch, Ortiz would have come up with the bases loaded.
"I wish I was a little bit more patient in the last at-bat," Bogaerts said. "I swung at a tough pitch. I was kind of looking up in the zone, but it was a bit too up for me, and it was a tough day to lose the streak. Obviously, I had a chance to at least get on base and get David a chance to do something with the game, but I battled and I enjoyed every bit of it." More >
Travis time: Travis made his first home run of the season a memorable one with a line drive over the Green Monster. The two-run shot was a no-doubter to left and gave the Blue Jays a little bit of breathing room by extending their lead to 5-1 in the top of the eighth inning. It was the third home run that Boston right-hander Uehara has allowed this season, and two of those were by Toronto.
"That was a tough one," Travis said of the 11-pitch at-bat. "He went to the heater early, and I think he threw me four or five splitters in a row. He was throwing some good ones. I was just doing my best to foul them off. Thankfully I got one up in the zone, and it worked out for me."
Another round number for Papi: When Ortiz broke up Dickey's no-hitter to open the sixth, it was his 500th career double with the Red Sox. Ortiz is just the third to reach that milestone with Boston, joining Carl Yastrzemski (646) and Ted Williams (525). Ortiz added another double in the eighth. He leads the AL with 25 doubles and 42 extra-base hits.
"My bad. Well, I probably almost caught him running around the bases, so I don't feel too bad for him." -- Travis, joking about fouling four consecutive pitches on a 3-2 count before homering off Uehara. Justin Smoak was running from first base during each of the full-count pitches.
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According to Elias, Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr. are just the second pair of teammates in the past 75 years to have hitting streaks of 26 games or more in the same season. Shawn Green and Shannon Stewart did it for the 1999 Blue Jays. Bradley's 29-game hitting streak ended on May 26.
Encarnacion's home run in the first inning was the fourth of his career against Price, which is the second most of anybody in baseball. Encarnacion's teammate Jose Bautista is first on that list with six.
WHAT'S NEXT Blue Jays: Right-hander Marcus Stroman will take the mound when the Blue Jays continue their series against the Red Sox on Saturday at 4:05 p.m. ET. Stroman has faced Boston twice this year, and neither outing went particularly well. On April 8, Stroman allowed five runs over 5 1/3 innings, while on May 28, he surrendered a career-high seven runs over the same amount of innings.
Red Sox: Knuckleballer Steven Wright will try to continue his strong start to the season when he pitches Saturday's contest against the Jays. Wright is coming off his third complete game of the season, notching a win at Baltimore on Monday.