EditorsNote: adds to seventh paragraph
Blue Jays hammer staggering Sale, Red Sox
BOSTON — Chris Sale has struggled in September and into the start of October throughout his quality big league career.
That could be an ominous sign for the Boston Red Sox as they prepare for the postseason.
Sale was hammered for four home runs in five innings Tuesday night, leading to the Red Sox’ 9-4 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays that kept Boston’s magic number for clinching their second straight American League East title at three.
It would be one thing if this was one blip on Sale record. But he is 2-2 this September and, perhaps more importantly, is 12-16 for his career in September/October.
“I’m still doing what I can out there,” Sale (17-8) said after allowing five runs on eight hits, to a team he had blanked over 22 innings in three previous starts this season. “Sometimes it doesn’t work out that way. You can’t have a good day at work every day.
“Unfortunately, what I do is amplified because we’re here and we’re in the thick of it. To survive you’ve got to win games. I’m not doing that and I’m as frustrated as anybody on the planet about that.”
By losing for the second straight nights, the Red Sox saw their lead over the New York Yankees shrink back to three games, with five to play. Boston is now assured of opening the AL Division Series on the road — assuming it wins the division.
“We’re still in good position,” said Andrew Benintendi, who almost joined a growing injury list by fouling two balls off himself during the same at-bat.
They are in good position. But their ace has now alternated bad and good starts over his last seven. He got eight of the 14 strikeouts he needed to break Pedro Martinez’s club record of 313 strikeouts and how much he pitches on his regular day Sunday, if at all, remains to be seen.
“I think it’s probably too early to answer that definitely,” said Boston manager John Farrell, who saw his pitcher being his usual aggressive self, pitching in the zone — and saw the Jays jump all over him. “We just have to see how these final five games play out.”
Said Sale: “That’s not my call. I answer the phone when it rings. When they tell me to go out there I go out there. Wherever that is, it is and I’ll be ready for it.”
Josh Donaldson hit two solo homers, Teoscar Hernandez delivered one, and Kendrys Morales belted a two-run shot off Sale.
Hernandez added a three-run homer in the eighth inning, and J.A. Happ pitched seven strong innings as the Jays moved into a tie with the losing Baltimore Orioles to get out of the cellar in the East.
After winning Monday night, Toronto pitcher Brett Anderson said, “You don’t want a team to clinch in your face.” Now, that won’t happen to the Jays, who will leave town without seeing a celebration.
Happ (10-11) gave up a run before he got an out but then retired 16 straight before giving up a pair of singles in the sixth inning. He pitched out of that jam and struck out three of his last four hitters, and nine total.
In seven innings, he yielded a run on four hits and no walks with nine strikeouts.
“You erase that first half — a large part of it he was injured — I thought he was terrific,” said Blue Jays manager John Gibbons. “Of course, this being his last start today, he did it in style.”
Donaldson hit his 32nd and 33rd homers of the season, but his 23rd and 24th since the All-Star break, tops in the major leagues. Hernandez hit his fourth and fifth homers in the past five games. He has two multi-homer games this month. Hernandez has seven homers and 18 RBIs in 22 games for the Blue Jays.
“It is nice. It’s nice to be able to finish strong, more importantly because of how frustrating at times it’s been,” said Donaldson, injured in the first half. “We haven’t been catching the breaks that we would have like throughout the course of the season. It is nice to finish strong.”
Ryan Goins added a pinch RBI single in a four-run eighth inning for Toronto.
Sandy Leon greeted reliever Matt Dermody with a solo homer in the bottom of the eighth. The Red Sox added two more runs on a pinch double by Rajai Davis and an RBI single by Hanley Ramirez.
Donaldson, who homered in the first inning for the second straight night, had three hits for Toronto for the second straight night. Kevin Pillar also had three hits.
Boston’s Chris Young had a single, a double and a triple in the loss.
NOTES: The Red Sox lead the season series with Toronto 12-6, going 8-1 in Toronto and only 4-5 at Fenway Park. ... RF Mookie Betts (wrist), DH/INF Eduardo Nunez (knee) and 2B Dustin Pedroia (knee) were all missing from the Red Sox lineup and all were considered day-to-day. Betts had tests on his left wrist Tuesday that came out negative. ... Toronto 3B Josh Donaldson hit his 15th first-inning homer of the season, breaking a tie with Giancarlo Stanton for the major league lead. ... Red Sox RHP Rick Porcello (10-17, 4.55 ERA), who leads the majors with 17 losses and the American League with 229 hits allowed, closes the series against Blue Jays RHP Marco Estrada (10-8, 4.70), who brings a three-start winning streak and an eight-start unbeaten streak (5-0) into Wednesday night’s series finale.