TORONTO — The Toronto Blue Jays are showing signs of slowly recovering from their worst start in the franchise’s 40-year history.
With starting pitcher Francisco Liriano (1-1) going 5 1/3 innings without allowing a run and helped by two double plays, the Blue Jays snapped a two-game winless streak to defeat the Boston Red Sox 3-0 at the Rogers Centre on Wednesday night.
The Jays (3-11) won for the second time in four games.
The Red Sox (9-6), who beat the Jays 8-7 on Tuesday night in the opener of the three-game series, had a four-game winning streak snapped.
Liriano threw 91 pitches — 61 for strikes. After lasting only a third of an inning in his season opener, he has pitched five or more innings in his last two games.
Rick Porcello (1-2) took the loss for Boston. Last year’s American League Cy Young winner did not give up any earned runs in seven innings.
It was a combination of back-to-back errors by the Sox in the second inning that spoiled what was otherwise a good outing. He threw 110 pitches against the Jays, 76 of them strikes. He gave up six hits, one walk and struck out five.
“We played a great ball game tonight in all phases,” Jays manager John Gibbons said. “We got to Porcello in that one inning and then he settled down. He was different guy as the game went on. We got some key hits and our defense was really good.
“Of course, it starts with Liriano. He was dynamite. He had that blip in that opening-day start, but you look back on his last couple starts and he’s been really, really good. That’s what he can do.”
The Jays took an early 3-0 lead in the second inning when third baseman Darwin Barney singled up the middle, driving in shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and catcher Russell Martin. Both reached base on back-to-back throwing errors by third baseman Pablo Sandoval and first baseman Mitch Moreland.
Left fielder Ezequiel Carrera drove in Barney from second after he advanced to second on a single by Kevin Pillar. Boston had a chance in the fifth end when Liriano walked leadoff hitter Xander Bogaerts and one out later Sandoval singled to give Boston runners at first and second. But it ended when Sandy Leon hit into an inning-ending double play.
Liriano said he didn’t try to do too much, just throw strikes.
“The defense played really well behind me and, like usual, I trusted Russell (Martin) and we did a good job … ” Liriano said.
“That first outing I had was really tough, but I wanted to go further in the game, but I know we have a good bullpen, so we’ve just got to keep working for the next start.”
In the sixth inning, Boston had runners on first and second with one out, after which Liriano was removed in place of reliever Joe Biagini. He induced designated hitter Hanley Ramirez into an inning-ending double play.
Roberto Osuna, followed Biagni and Jason Grilli in the ninth inning to record the save.
Red Sox Manager John Farrell said he felt Porcello deserved a better fate than the way the game turned out.
“He got his sinker back to the bottom of the strike zone (and) a high number of ground balls that, unfortunately, found some holes,” Farrell said. “When they put the ball on the ground, they found some holes. When we did, it turned into a couple of key double plays in the middle innings. That was the typical performance that Rick delivered so many times last year. Tonight was probably the sharpest he’s been throughout. He was very good tonight.”
Porcello said he had a better command of his sinker.
“It was a good step in the right direction as far as fastball command is concerned,” he said. “You pitch to contact, those sort of things are going to happen. You can’t predict where they’re going to hit the ball.”
Right fielder Mookie Betts said Liriano was mixing things up with his pitches and throwing them all for strikes.
“We got a couple guys on, but hit into a couple of double plays. Just a tough night tonight,” he said.
NOTES: Jays CF Kevin Pillar had three hits and two stolen bases. … Jays manager John Gibbons said before the game he was considering giving C Jarrod Saltalamacchia some work at designated hitter. … Sox LHP Brian Johnson was optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket. … Red Sox LHP David Price, who hasn’t played this season because of an elbow strain, had a “good work day,” according to manager John Farrell, adding he hopes the former Jay will be able to start throwing from the mound on Friday.