The Boston fans who drove out to see David Ortiz inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday earned an added bonus for their troubles: They didn’t have to watch the Red Sox post another stinker against another AL East opponent.
Before the former Boston slugger could even step up to the microphone in Cooperstown, the team he led to three World Series championships had already fallen behind 5-0 and was on its way to an 8-4 loss and a three-game sweep by the Toronto Blue Jays.
“The brand of baseball we’re playing is awful,” manager Alex Cora said after the Red Sox lost their fifth straight game and their ninth in 10 tries to fall to .500 for the season.
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“We’re not catching the ball. We’re not putting in good at-bats, We’re not throwing strikes. It’s bad. It’s really bad right now,” Cora said. “But we’re talented. And we can turn around quick, and it starts tomorrow.”
Two days after Raimel Tapia hit an inside-the-park grand slam in a record-setting 28-5 Blue Jays victory, he had a bases-loaded triple in the first to spot Toronto to a 5-0 lead off top Boston prospect Brayan Bello (0-2) — one of five players in the Red Sox lineup who started the season in the minors.
Tapia had three hits and drove in four runs, giving him 10 RBIs for the series, and Vladimir Guerrero had four hits for the Blue Jays. Toronto also took advantage of three errors and a series of other blunders by Boston, which has not won a series against an AL East opponent in 12 tries this season and is just a half-game ahead of last-place Baltimore in the division.
On Sunday, the Red Sox kicked the ball around the outfield, fumbled it in the infield, threw it into a baserunner’s back, missed tags and missed bases and generally played like the minor leaguers that half of them were on opening day.
“Defensively we have taken a step back the last 14 days,” Cora said. “We were really good defensively early on. … It seems like right now the game speeds at one point in the game, and it looks horrible.”
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Tim Mayza (4-0) earned the win as the most effective reliever after inducing a double play in the seventh. Toronto starter Ross Stripling allowed two runs in four innings before reliever Trevor Richards gave up two more, when Jarren Duran tripled and scored in the fifth, then Jackie Bradley Jr. hit a solo homer in the sixth to make it 8-4.
But the biggest cheer of the day was when a clip from Ortiz’s acceptance speech was played on the scoreboard.
The Red Sox could have used him. Instead, the lineup was missing ailing All-Stars J.D. Martinez and Rafael Devers and top offseason acquisition Trevor Story, with the bottom five in the batting order all hitting worse than .220.
Wilting in the 98-degree heat and already trailing 5-1, the Red Sox were booed by the home crowd in the second inning, after George Springer stole second base and took third when Christian Vázquez’s throw went into the outfield and was kicked around there by left fielder Franchy Cordero.
Bello allowed five runs on nine hits and two walks, striking out two in four innings; he has yet to make it into the fifth in any of his three major league starts. But this time he was hurt by some bad luck and some bad defense.
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Toronto loaded the bases in the first inning on two softly hit balls — one that bounced off third base — and a walk, then Cavan Biggio connected for a two-run single off third baseman Jeter Downs that was also booted by Cordero. Tapia made it 5-0 on a bases-loaded triple to the right-center gap.
“The baseball was in their favor today,” Bello said “I just needed to keep working, keep learning and be ready for my next start.”
The Blue Jays added three more in the fifth, which began when Hirokazu Sawamura walked leadoff batter Teoscar Hernández when the Red Sox reliever put his fingers to his mouth with a 2-1 count after being warned, resulting in two automatic balls.
Hernandez came around to score on Tapia’s single, and another run scored when Downs threw the ball into the back of a baserunner heading home; Downs also muffed a routine grounder. The final run scored when pitcher Sawamura covered first on a dribbler to the right side of the infield but overran the bag.
Red Sox: Martinez was available to pinch hit despite back spasms and could return to the lineup on Monday night. … Story took swings as he recovers from a bruised right hand. INF/OF Kiké Hernández reported progress as he works his way back from a right hip flexor strain.
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Blue Jays: Off on Monday, host Cardinals on Tuesday, with RHP Jose Berrios (7-4) facing St. Louis RHP Andre Pallante (3-4).
Red Sox: Open four-game series against Guardians, with RHP Nick Pivetta (8-7) to face Cleveland RHP Zach Plesac (2-7).