"We played the first two games of this series, I thought they were tough, came up on the short end, and to bounce back and get a win I thought was big for this group, given the number of guys were out of the lineup today," manager John Farrell said.
Encarnacion, Escobar and Mathis were all listed on the original lineup on Sunday morning, but they became late scratches prior to first pitch. Encarnacion was out with a sore toe on his right foot while both Escobar and Mathis went down with flu-like symptoms.
That didn't bode well for much success against Lester, who entered the game with a career mark of 11-6 and a 3.86 ERA vs. the Blue Jays. Lester has been dominant against Toronto in the past, and he looked that way again during the early stages on Sunday as Boston looked for a series sweep at Rogers Centre for the first time since last June.
The Blue Jays had only one hit through six innings, but their bats finally came to life in the seventh. Utilityman Yan Gomes got the rally started with a two-out single up the middle. Pinch-runner Rajai Davis then stole second base and eventually came around to score on Omar Vizquel's single.
That represented the go-ahead run and provided the Blue Jays with a lead they would not relinquish. It also marked hit No. 2,872 for Vizquel, who moved into a tie with Jesse Burkett for 42nd on the all-time hits list. Vizquel needs just one more hit to tie Babe Ruth, and he'll have an opportunity to accomplish that feat during a three-game series in New York which starts Tuesday.
"Wow, not even in my wildest dreams I would have thought you can bring the name of Babe Ruth next to mine and compare with the hits and other things that have been in my career," said Vizquel, who went 2-for-4. "I guess when you play for awhile, every time that you score a run, steal a base or get a base hit they start bringing some other numbers that you're not even aware [of].
"I started the season and I wasn't really thinking about numbers, I just wanted to try and go out there and finish my career strong. Everything else, the numbers, just go by themselves."
Vizquel gave Toronto the lead, but it was Hechavarria that provided the club with some breathing room. Hechavarria hit Lester's next pitch over the left-field wall for his second homer of the year. The blast came on a first-pitch cutter and contributed to spoiling what had been a dominating outing by Lester until his seventh-inning struggles.
Lester was charged with three runs on four hits while striking out seven and walking just one. The final result wasn't what Lester had envisioned, but it was markedly better than his last start vs. Toronto on July 22, when he surrendered a career-high 11 runs in four-plus innings at Fenway Park.
"I don't know if he threw a bad pitch except for maybe the curveball to Vizquel," Boston manager Bobby Valentine said. "The whole game he was in and out, doing a heck of a job."
Lester likely deserved a better fate, but he was matched pitch for pitch through six innings by Morrow. The hard-throwing righty didn't allow a run while surrendering just four hits and one walk in his fifth start since returning from the 60-day disabled list with a strained oblique muscle.
Morrow's only real difficulty was a high pitch count. He was forced to throw 26 pitches in the first inning and was at 80 through four. That meant he was forced to come out after six having thrown 102 pitches despite retiring the final eight batters he faced.
The California native now owns a 2.89 ERA with 25 strikeouts in 28 innings since returning. He has won nine of his past 15 starts overall while the Blue Jays avoided a series sweep and picked up a victory for just the second time in their past six games.
"That's also a product of having some guys on and not wanting to make a mistake there early in the game in some bigger situations," Morrow said of the early pitch count, "but then I got into a rhythm, found a groove and finished up nicely."
Toronto is now set to embark on its final road trip of the season. The Blue Jays have three games in New York and three in St. Petersburg before wrapping up the visiting schedule with an additional four games in Baltimore.