TORONTO — Marcus Stroman, in his first home start of the year after knee surgery, held Boston in check for seven innings Friday as the Toronto Blue Jays opened up their final regular-season homestand with a 6-1 win over the Red Sox.
The Jays’ bats did the rest.
Toronto scored at least six runs for the 66th time this season to lead the majors. The Jays have won 26 straight when scoring five or more runs.
Justin Smoak drove in two runs to go over 50 for the season. The Jays now have six players with 10-plus homers and 50-plus RBIs this season, the most since a team-record eight did it in 2010.
Stroman (2-0) was aided by some sound Toronto defence with two double plays and a Boston runner nailed trying to steal a base. Josh Donaldson, Ryan Goins and Smoak also made sparking fielding plays behind him.
Boston (69-77) was not as stylish with the glove and paid for its mistakes
Toronto (85-62) is now a season-high 23 games over .500. It’s the most games over .500 since the final day of the ’93 season when the Jays (95-67) were 28 games over.
The Jays won their third straight and are 32-10 since Aug. 2, outscoring the opposition 256-144.
Friday marked the beginning of a nine-game home stretch that features series against division rivals in Boston, the Yankees and Tampa Bay. The Jays then wrap up the regular season with a series in Baltimore.
Stroman threw 96 pitches, 69 for strikes, giving up one run on six hits with three strikeouts and one walk. After recovering from March knee surgery, he returned Sept. 12 to beat the Yankees in New York — where he gave up three earned runs and four hits in five innings.
The 24-year-old right-hander started with an eight-pitch strikeout of Mookie Betts, needing just six more pitches to retire the side. He limited Boston to a walk in the second, two-out single in the third and single in the fourth.
Things got more complicated in the fifth with three Boston singles and a wild pitch but Stroman — riding a 4-0 lead — escaped at the cost of just one run. One of those singles came via a challenge after the umpires turned Josh Rutledge’s RBI groundout into an RBI hit despite the best efforts of third baseman Donaldson to throw him out.
Stroman faced the minimum in the sixth and seventh innings. Liam Hendriks and Aaron Sanchez followed.
The game, which saw Toronto outhit Boston 9-8, was played before a sellout of 47,126 with the Rogers Centre roof opening mid-game.
Toronto went ahead 1-0 in the bottom of the third on a Kevin Pillar double, Cliff Pennington sacrifice bunt and Ben Revere RBI groundout.
The Jays scored three more in the fourth, taking advantage of a Brock Holt error that put Edwin Encarnacion on while negating a possible double play with Jose Bautista on first after a walk. Smoak doubled in Bautista and Encarnacion and then came home on a Goins triple off the right-field wall.
The error allowed Encarnacion to extend his club-record streak of reaching base safely to 45 games.
Toronto loaded the bases in the sixth with no outs on three singles, scoring two runs on a wild pitch and sacrifice bunt to make it 6-1.
Donaldson added to his highlight reel in the third when he reached high in the air to snag a broken-bat shot from Rutledge. Catcher Russell Martin also showed off his defence the same inning, throwing out Betts as he tried to steal second.
Goins acrobatically snagged a hard lineout in the sixth, with Smoak doing the same in the ninth.
Boston starter Rick Porcello (8-13) lasted six innings, giving up five earned runs on eight hits. The six-foot-five right-hander is 1-5 lifetime at the Rogers Centre.
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press