TORONTO — Regardless of where the Red Sox are in the standings, something had to change entering Thursday’s game against the Blue Jays. They had won just three of their past 11 games and were on a five-game losing streak.
The Sox’ bats had been cold in their previous six games, hitting just .194 since the start of the series against the Yankees Sept. 6.
Xander Bogaerts was 0 for his past 12. His last hit was his 1,000th, against Yankees lefthander J.A. Happ. J.D. Martinez was in a funk, too, slashing .095/.208/.569 in his previous six games. To make matters worse, the Red Sox had lost the first two games of the series against a young Blue Jays team and were shutout in Wednesday night’s matchup.
“We for sure didn’t expect to come here and lose these first two games against these guys,” Bogaerts said after their 8-0 loss Wednesday. The Red Sox are 9½ games out of the second wild-card spot with 15 games to play.
But on Thursday night, finally, the Sox broke through to beat the Blue Jays, 7-4, and avoid the sweep.
“It’s always good to [get the win],” manager Alex Cora said. “It was a tough one yesterday. The at-bats weren’t great. The at-bats were a lot better today. We controlled the strike zone a little bit more.”
Marco Hernandez plated the Sox’ first two runs, doubling off former Red Sox starter Clay Bucholz in the second inning.
Jhoulys Chacin started and worked 2⅔ scoreless innings for the Sox.
The Sox added another run in the third. Bogaerts snapped his skid with a two-out double, giving him 50 on the season. Bogaerts and Rafael Devers are the first pair of Sox to record at least 50 doubles in the same season. And Bogaerts became just the second shortstop to have 50-plus doubles and 30-plus homers in a season. The other was Alex Rodriguez in 1996.
“Once I start getting close to those type of numbers, I just take the mentality and approach to go and get it,” Bogaerts said. “I’m happy I did. I’ve been hitting a lot of balls in the infield. Can’t get a double hitting ground balls in the infield.”
Martinez followed Bogaerts’s double with one of his own, scoring Bogaerts for a 3-0 lead. In the fourth, Jackie Bradley Jr. doubled, then Juan Centeno’s single extended the ’ lead to 4-0.
The Blue Jays got a pair of runs in the fifth inning, however. Lefthander Brian Johnson issued a two-out walk to Bo Bichette. Next, Cavan Biggio roped a triple down the right-field line, scoring Bichette. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. then singled in Biggio.
But the Sox added some insurance in the seventh. Mookie Betts stroked his second single of the game, then stole second. Brock Holt then singled in Betts to make it 5-2, Betts scoring his 130th run of the season. He became the first Sox player to score at least 130 runs in a season since Dom DiMaggio scored 131 times in 1950. Betts would tie DiMaggio in the ninth.
Bogaerts then laced his second hit, singling up the middle to bring in Holt.
Matt Barnes couldn’t find the strike zone in the eighth inning, walking Justin Smoak after striking out Rowdy Tellez. Barnes then struck out Randal Grichuk but walked Reese McGuire, putting runners at first and second with two outs. Barnes surrendered an infield single to Anthony Alford before walking Derek Fisher to force in a run and shrink the Blue Jays’ deficit to 6-3.
“The fastball command wasn’t there,” Cora said. “He threw a few breaking balls that were good. Changeup was good today. Just with the fastball he was all over the place.”
That’s when Cora summoned closer Brandon Workman from the bullpen for a four-out save. Workman got out the inning unscathed, and the Red Sox scored in a run in the ninth, giving them a four-run cushion again.
The Blue Jays responded with a run of their own in the bottom of the ninth, but Workman struck out Smoak to end it.
The Sox will face the Philadelphia Phillies, and even though this season probably won’t extend beyond September, this was one they had to get.
“We’ve been in a slump the last five, six games,” Chacin said. “It’s always important to win games. At the end, that’s the most important thing, to win the game and that’s what we did today.