TORONTO — For a team still on the outer limits of playoff contention, the Red Sox have been walking taller the last two weeks. They believe their recent hot stretch is more a reflection of the team than the first three months of the season were.
Now comes the hard part, proving it after a dispiriting stumble.
The Red Sox had their five-game win streak snapped and fell back into last place on Tuesday night with a 7-3 loss in Toronto.
In a repeat of so many other starts this season, Jake Peavy pitched well enough to go deep in the game and still lose, while the offense missed chances to support him.
The Sox have turned one loss into a group of them time after time this season. They face knuckleballer R.A. Dickey on Wednesday night, needing to quickly regain the positive feeling the win streak created.
“I’m confident we’ll do that,” manager John Farrell said.
With the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline approaching, the Sox can’t afford to wait. The alternative is general manager Ben Cherington dealing veterans and further committing to looking to next season.
“We’re pretty urgent every day,” Dustin Pedroia said. “That’s the way we’re playing . . . You have to try to turn the page as fast as you can and play winning baseball.”
Said Stephen Drew: “We have to put this one behind us and move on. It’s been great and we have to keep that going and keep the momentum.”
Peavy pitched into the seventh inning, but allowed five runs on eight hits. He walked three and struck out seven.
Down 1-0 in the sixth, Peavy admitted trying to be too cautious and the game unraveled quickly.
Jose Reyes led off with a home run to right field, jumping on a 2-and-2 fastball and pulling it down the line. Melky Cabrera followed with a double before Dioner Navarro homered to right field.
“Trying to do too much there instead of making pitches knowing I probably couldn’t give up any more [runs]. Just trying to be too fine,” Peavy said. “There’s no excuse. I certainly know the type of games I’ve been in.”
Both of the home run pitches were on fastballs that were supposed to be away and came back over the plate.
Peavy came back out for the seventh inning. He got one out before Anthony Gose bunted for a single. Peavy made a diving attempt at the ball and missed it.
Reyes also singled, which ended Peavy’s night at 105 pitches. With Burke Badenhop on the mound, a double steal put the two runners in scoring position.
Cabrera hit a ball up the middle that deflected off Badenhop toward third base. Xander Bogaerts had a play at the plate but hesitated and threw late to first base as a run scored, making it 5-0.
Peavy (1-9) has handled his annus horribilis professionally, steadfastly refusing to blame a lack of run support for his travails.
But the facts are hard to ignore. Peavy has the lowest support of any American League pitcher and the Sox have scored two or fewer runs while he was on the mound in eight consecutive starts dating to June 9.
A day after the Red Sox scored 14 runs on 18 hits, they managed no runs with Peavy in the game.
“There’s no bank that we can take runs and put them in and take a loan out the next day unfortunately,” Farrell said.
Peavy is 0-9 with a 5.34 earned run average in his last 15 starts. His last few starts have been better but still not good enough. The Red Sox are 5-15 in the games he has started this season.
“Jake is in quite a stretch here. He’s pitching with his back against the wall and is doing a damn good job,” Farrell said.
Farrell’s praise may have been geared toward pumping up Peavy’s trade value. The former Cy Young winner has one more start before the deadline.
Felix Doubront, another pitcher the Sox would welcome dealing, allowed two runs on three hits in the eighth inning. Those mistakes were magnified when the Sox scored twice in the top of the ninth.
Facing Casey Janssen, Shane Victorino (3 for 4) singled and Drew hit his second home run in as many nights. David Ross (3 for 4) singled with one out and was replaced by pinch runner Jackie Bradley Jr.
Ross aggravated a tendon issue in his right heel in the third inning and was not running well. He does not expect that to cut into what has been increased playing time.
Brock Holt then walked to give the comeback more fuel. But Pedroia flied to right field. He was 0 for 4 and is now hitless in his last 17 at-bats.
Lefthander Brett Cecil was called in to face David Ortiz, who had earlier homered. Ortiz grounded to third base and Steve Tolleson stepped on the bag to end the game.
The Sox had 11 hits, but left nine runners on base. They were 1 for 9 with runners in scoring position.
Toronto starter J.A. Happ (8-5) allowed seven hits over six innings, but the Sox left seven runners on base against him and never came close to scoring.
Their best opportunity came in the fourth inning. Ortiz beat the defensive shift with an opposite-field double to left field. Mike Napoli failed to move Ortiz, flying to right field. Jonny Gomes was hit by a pitch before Victorino singled to right field.
Ortiz stopped at third base, respecting the strong arm of Jose Bautista. Drew popped to left field to end the inning.
Ross doubled with one out in the fifth inning. Holt grounded out before Pedroia walked. Ortiz then swung at the first pitch and popped out.
Napoli and Gomes singled to start the sixth inning. Victorino, who had singled his first two times up, grounded into a double play. Drew then struck out.
The Sox did not score until Ortiz homered to center field against Dustin McGowan in the eighth inning.