Verdugo, Martinez power 5-run 1st, Red Sox top Blue Jays 7-3
DUNEDIN, Fla. (AP) — Alex Verdugo and J.D. Martinez hit back-to-back homers during a five-run first inning, Garrett Richards won his fourth straight decision and the Boston Red Sox beat the Toronto Blue Jays 7-3 on Wednesday night.
Kiké Hernández and Christian Vázquez also went deep for the Red Sox, who are 13-6 on the road. Boston has outhomered its opponents 57-32.
“We had good at-bats from the get-go,” manager Alex Cora said. “We hit line drives. When we do that we also hit a lot of home runs.”
Toronto, which lost for only the second time in eight games, got a two-run homer from Marcus Semien. A victory would have moved the Blue Jays past Boston into first place in the AL East.
Verdugo hit a two-run drive and Martinez ended a 12-game homerless drought with an opposite-field shot to right as the first five batters reached safely against Ross Stripling (0-2). Bobby Dalbec also drove in a run on a double to right.
“I hope I have to do it every single time I pitch,” a smiling Richards said about waiting to take the mound as his teammates built a big early lead. “It’s always nice when the boys score runs in the first inning. It allows you to just go out and pitch, fill up the zone.”
Boston’s right-handed batters emphasized hitting the ball to right field during batting practice as the wind continued a recent trend of briskly blowing in, especially in the early innings, from left field at TD Ballpark.
Richards (4-2) allowed two runs, seven hits and four walks with five strikeouts over 6 2/3 innings. The right-hander induced three double-play grounders.
“Garrett was amazing,” Cora said. “It’s not easy to pitch here. If I’m a pitcher and I see the first inning, I’m happy with the five runs, but you see the conditions here. You’re like, `I’ve got to keep the ball down.’”
Hernández drove a second-inning solo homer through the breeze to left to put Boston ahead 6-1. He had three hits, coming within a triple of the cycle.
Semien’s homer off Garrett Whitlock pulled Toronto to 6-3 in the seventh.
Vázquez hit a solo shot in the eighth.
The first four Toronto batters reached base safely against Richards but the Blue Jays scored just once in the first inning on Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s double. Semien drew a leadoff walk but overran third on Bo Bichette’s double and was thrown trying to return to the base.
Stripling gave up six runs and eight hits in 3 2/3 innings.
“His command hasn’t been there,” Toronto manager Charlie Montoyo said. “It’s not easy when you’re struggling to regroup, but again, when you have the stuff to be good, there’s always a chance. It’s tough to go back to the drawing board, but you have to.”
Red Sox LHP Eduardo Rodriguez ran the bases in preparation for a scheduled interleague start Sunday at Philadelphia. He is 0 for 20 at the plate, including 10 strikeouts, with three sacrifice bunts and one run scored.
RHP Alek Manoah, taken 11th overall in the 2019 draft by Toronto, allowed one run and struck out 10 for Triple-A Buffalo against Worcester. His ERA through three starts is 0.50.
Red Sox: INF Christian Arroyo (bruised left hand) is nearing the start of a minor league rehab assignment. … INF/OF Danny Santana (right foot infection) could soon be an option to be called up from Triple-A Worcester.
Blue Jays: RHP Anthony Castro (right forearm strain) had a live batting practice session. When he rejoins the team could be determined Thursday.
Boston RHP Nick Pivetta (5-0) and Blue Jays LHP Steven Matz (5-2) are the scheduled starters in the series finale Thursday night.
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