Carry on: Sox first in Majors to 20 victories

Dempster yields just one run as Boston continues torrid stretch

Carry on: Sox first in Majors to 20 victories

TORONTO -- It wasn't easy, but the Red Sox continued their hot ways and became the first team in baseball to record 20 wins.

Starter Ryan Dempster didn't dominate the same way Clay Buchholz did on Wednesday, but the veteran persevered and did enough to help Boston win its fourth road series of the year. It's the first time since 1982 the Sox have won all four road sets to begin a season.

Dempster tossed six innings of one-run ball to earn his second victory of the season and guide the Red Sox to a 3-1 win over the Blue Jays in front of 25,851 at Rogers Centre on Thursday.

"He didn't have his best stuff overall tonight, but he uses the whole count when he needs to," said manager John Farrell. "He's got the knack to not let the game speed up on him and try to reach back and just go with sheer velocity."

Dempster shook aside some early hiccups, including a leadoff home run he surrendered to Blue Jays third baseman and fellow Canadian Brett Lawrie, and got stronger as the game progressed.

A native of Gibsons, British Columbia, Dempster made his first Major League start at Rogers Centre. The only time he had thrown at the ballpark was as a member of Canada's Junior National Team in 1994.

Returning to his home country is always something Dempster enjoys, he said, and he showed that after getting out of some early jams.

Lawrie drove a 1-1 offering from Dempster over the fence in left-center field for his third homer of the season, which put Boston in an early 1-0 deficit. Dempster allowed another baserunner that frame, but he got Edwin Encarnacion to hit into an inning-ending double play to keep the damage at just one run.

The Red Sox quickly responded in the second inning against Blue Jays starter J.A. Happ. Mike Napoli led things off with a double down the left-field line -- his Major League-leading 22nd extra-base hit of the season -- and scored three batters later on a single from Mike Carp.

Stephen Drew hit a sacrifice fly later in the frame to score Will Middlebrooks, who drew a walk, to put the Red Sox ahead, 2-1.

Dempster never relinquished that lead, but he had to dig himself out of another hole in the third inning. After walking three batters in the frame and receiving a visit from pitching coach Juan Nieves, Encarnacion bailed Dempster out by swinging at a 2-0 pitch and hitting into another inning-ending double play.

"He uses his secondary pitches, which he was able to induce some ground balls, but veteran presence and experience shines through in those situations," said Farrell.

It was relatively smooth sailing for Dempster after that, as the 35-year-old allowed just one runner over his final three innings of work and retired seven straight to end his night. Dempster allowed four hits, walked three and struck out four, while lowering his ERA to 3.00.

"I was struggling to find it early on in the first few innings and I was able to start getting the ball down and make some pitches," Dempster said. "The leadoff homer probably woke me up a little bit."

Dempster became the first Canadian-born Red Sox pitcher to start and win a game in Canada since Rheal Cormier on Aug. 5, 1995.

The Red Sox have beat up on the Blue Jays over the six contests the teams have played this season, all of which have been in Toronto. Boston, which took two of three in the series, has won five of six overall and hit a whopping 16 home runs at Rogers Centre this season.

It's not just power and exceptional pitching that has helped the Red Sox dominate the Blue Jays this year. It has also been patience and smart at-bats, which was evident Thursday, as Boston drew 10 walks. David Ross had three of them, which matched a career high.

"It's been vital, because when you look at the number of times we've gotten into the bullpen in the middle innings, the fourth, fifth inning, it has a carry-over effect not only to the next day but inside a given series," Farrell said about his club's plate discipline. "That's a testament that [general manager] Ben [Cherington] has brought in here -- guys that have had track records of high on-base, drawing walks [and a] relentless approach at the plate."

Seven of those walks were issued by Happ, which set a career high, over 3 2/3 innings of work, his shortest outing since May 2009.

"It all starts with fastball command," said Happ, who fell to 2-2. "Generally I have that. Tonight I didn't, so that sets the table for a tough night. I'm looking forward to the next one and I anticipate that being better."

Boston added one more run in the sixth on an RBI single from Jacoby Ellsbury before thwarting a Toronto rally the following inning.

Junichi Tazawa punched out Adam Lind with the bases loaded to preserve the Red Sox's 3-1 lead.

Joel Hanrahan, and not Andrew Bailey, was called upon to secure the win, and after allowing a leadoff single, Hanrahan got pinch-hitter Rajai Davis to pop out and then got Munenori Kawasaki to hit into an inning-ending double to notch his 100th save.

Bailey wasn't available due to discomfort in his biceps, which he has been feeling for a couple days.

Next up for the Red Sox is a marquee weekend series in Arlington against the Rangers that will feature a clash between a pair of first-place teams.

Chris Toman is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.