TORONTO — The hitters had been having upper hand. The Boston Red Sox outscored the Toronto Blue Jays 16-11 in winning the first two games of the series, but the finale was different. It was a game for the pitchers and fielders.
Right-hander Marco Estrada (1-0) pitched seven scoreless innings in his season debut to help the Blue Jays end a four-game losing streak with a 3-0 victory over the Red Sox on Sunday.
Sure, Josh Donaldson hit a solo home run. But the game possibly turned on a superb defensive play by the Blue Jays in the third inning to preserve a two-run lead.
Second baseman Ryan Goins made a strong relay throw home to cut down Boston second baseman Dustin Pedroia, who tried to score from first on a two-out double down the right-field line by Xander Bogaerts. Right fielder Jose Bautista retrieved the ball and threw to Goins, who gunned to the ball to catcher Russell Martin.
“That was a huge play,” Estrada said. “I’m thinking I’m going to give up a run and the game was going to be a little closer. But Bautista getting the ball to Go Go (Goins) and Go Go making a great play. Not only that, Russell had to dig that ball out and still make the tag so it pumped me up. You see plays like that happen behind you and you want to give the boys even more.”
“They executed it perfectly,” Pedroia said. “They just put every throw on the money.”
The Blue Jays (3-4) avoided being swept in the three-game series by the Red Sox (3-2) with the victory.
Estrada allowed five hits and two walks while striking out eight in seven innings.
Red Sox right-hander Steven Wright (0-1) allowed six hits and two runs (one earned) in 6 2/3 innings in his season debut. The knuckleballer walked three and struck out five while making 118 pitches.
The Blue Jays scored twice in the first inning keyed by a passed ball and an error.
“He kept us in the game into the seventh,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “I thought he minimized the damage as best possible in the first, and after that inning he settled in and controlled and commanded the knuckleball very well.
“We ran into an outstanding pitching performance from Estrada here today. A lot of strikes, first and foremost. But a well above-average changeup. Seemingly, you could almost sit on the changeup and it wouldn’t get to home plate, kind of a Bugs Bunny type of changeup. He pitched a heck of a game against us. We’ve been swinging the bat well here and on this road trip, and he shut us down.”
Estrada was hampered by a stiff back early in spring training and started the season on the disabled list.
“I really didn’t know what to expect going into this game with the way spring training went, things like that,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. “But it was vintage Estrada, it really was. It’s early in the season but we needed a game like that, crisp good all-around play.”
Right-hander Roberto Osuna pitched around a single in the ninth to earn his third save of the season.
Kevin Pillar and Donaldson started the bottom of the first inning with singles. A passed ball put the runners at second and third. Bautista walked to load the bases.
Edwin Encarnacion’s grounder to shortstop forced Bautista at second, but Pedroia threw wildly to first, allowing a second run to score.
Wright was replaced by right-hander Noe Ramirez with two out in the seventh and Goins at second after hitting a double. Ramirez retired Pillar to end the inning.
“They definitely put good swings on some not good pitches,” Wright said. “They spoiled a lot pitches. I felt like they had a good approach today. They hit some hard ones early on, they got the two runs but guys made some really good plays that kind of saved us some big innings.”
Donaldson hit Ramirez’s first pitch of the bottom of the eighth for his fourth homer of the season.