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Blue Jays will pose another growing challenge in the American League East

n a home plate scene the Blue Jays repeated a record eight times Sunday, Bo Bichette (right) was greeted by teammate Cavan Biggio (left) following Bichette;s fifth-inning homer in an 18-4 rout of the Red Sox at Fenway Park.
n a home plate scene the Blue Jays repeated a record eight times Sunday, Bo Bichette (right) was greeted by teammate Cavan Biggio (left) following Bichette;s fifth-inning homer in an 18-4 rout of the Red Sox at Fenway Park.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

After dropping five out of seven regular-season meetings against the Astros by a combined score of 42-25, the Red Sox were well aware Houston was going to pose a problem. If the Sox were to make it to the playoffs, Alex Cora knew the Astros would be the type of opponent his team would have to beat.

But after absorbing hideous back-to-back losses in this four-game series against the Blue Jays, including Sunday’s 18-4 drubbing, it’s clear the Red Sox will have their hands full surviving challenges from within the American League East. .

In the last three games, Blue Jays hitters have accounted for 15 earned runs against Red Sox starters.

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Nick Pivetta surrendered four of the five homers the Jays hit in Saturday’s 7-2 victory and Martin Pérez gave up three of the franchise-record eight the Jays had in Sunday’s rout.

The eight homers the Jays hit Sunday represented a franchise record for the most homers allowed in a single game by Sox pitchers. In three games, the Blue Jays have 14 homers. Vladimir Guerreo Jr. has homered in each of them. Cavan Biggio and Bo Bichette have homered in the last two contests.

Guerrero is on another level and appears to be in contention for consideration for American League MVP. He crushed his league-leading 21st homer of the year off Ryan Weber Sunday and is currently hitting .344/.450/.688 with a jaw-dropping 1.137 OPS.

Guerrero, who was out of shape all last season, returned to the Blue Jays in fine form this year. It has paid off.

“Throughout the minor leagues, he always dominated the strike zone,” Cora said before his team’s blowout loss. “He’s going to be a monster. He’s going to be a guy that we’re going to see very often. I rather watch him on TV and have fun watching him than actually face him. But this is where we are at.”

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Vladimir Guerrero Jr. went 3-for-5 Sunday in the rout of the Red Sox.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. went 3-for-5 Sunday in the rout of the Red Sox.Steven Senne/Associated Press

Bichette is more of a free swinger, something Cora said he gets from his father, former major leaguer Dante Bichette. Yet the talent is there.

“He’s just explosive, and he’s not afraid to swing hard,” Cora said.

The Blue Jays have done a good job of surrounding the young core with veterans such as Marcus Semien, who is having a stellar year hitting .294/.359/.889 with 15 homers. Semien signed a one-year, $18 million deal with the Jays this offseason and is likely due for a pay day this offseason.

Scarier still is the fact the Jays also have George Springer, who remains on the injured list after playing in just three games. While the Sox currently lead the Blue Jays by 4½-games in the AL East standings, it’s clear this team will be a force in the division not just in the foreseeable future, but in the present.

A triple threat

When Rafael Devers scored from first base on Kiké Hernández’s two-run double in a 7-3 win at New York June 5, the speed with which the Red Sox third baseman moved around the base paths had become something of a norm.

Devers put his speed on display when he roped a triple down the line in Saturday’s game against the Blue Jays, breezing around the bases to leg out the three-bagger, his first of the season and sixth of his career.

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In his first year in the big leagues in 2017, Devers ranked in the 74th percentile in sprint speed, per Baseball Savant. In 2018, his sprint speed dropped to the 56th percentile followed by a 2019 season where it dipped slightly to the 53rd percentile. In 2020, when Devers came to Red Sox camp out of shape and nursing an ankle injury, his sprint speed fell to a career-low (39th percentile).

Red Sox' coaches say Rafael Devers' speed is an underrated part of his game.
Red Sox' coaches say Rafael Devers' speed is an underrated part of his game.John Tlumacki

Yet this season, Devers’s 66th-percentile ranking in sprint speed is his highest since his debut season, making him a threat on the bases. Red Sox third base coach Carlos Febles, who managed Devers in the minors, always knew Devers to be a fast runner despite his thick 6-foot, 210-pound frame.

“Once he gets going, he’s faster than anybody,” Febles said Sunday. “He reminds me of Jackie Bradley. Only difference is Jackie gets going quicker. But Rafi gets to you quickly at third base.”

Febles said at times it is difficult to multitask with a ball hit in the gap and Devers on the bases.

“Rafi is always trying to score,” said Febles, noting Devers’ aggressive nature on the base paths. “Rafi is always trying to get an extra base. Rafi always wants to advance 90 feet. He’s very aggressive. It’s something we like about him.”

Remy improved

NESN’s Jerry Remy, who was hospitalized Friday with shortness of breath, told friends he is feeling better. He remains at Massachusetts General Hospital undergoing tests. There is no timetable for his return to the booth . . . University of Massachusetts men’s hockey coach Greg Carvel, who guided the Minutemen to their first NCAA national title in program history, was recognized before the game along with his staff. Carvel’s son, Drew, threw out the first pitch . . . Blue Jays starter Steven Matz was placed on the COVID-related injured list Sunday. Matz allowed one run in 5⅔ innings Saturday vs. the Sox. “He’s still going through additional testing,” Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said. “The guys that were around him that are vaccinated came back negative, and that’s good.” To replace Matz on the roster, Toronto recalled pitcher Jeremy Beasley from Triple-A Buffalo . . . Red Sox short stop Xander Bogaerts returned to the lineup after missing the last two games with left knee soreness. He went 1 for 3 with a walk and hit his 12th homer of the season, a leadoff solo shot in the second off Toronto starter Robbie Ray . . . Jonny Miller of WBZ Radio celebrated his 72nd birthday at the ballpark and received a card signed by, among others, Cora and Dennis Eckersley. Miller has been covering the Sox for 50 years.

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Julian McWilliams can be reached at julian.mcwilliams@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @byJulianMack.