Blue Jays’ late rally falls short against Red Sox

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The Stro Show turned into a Barnes burner that wound up searing the Blue Jays.

Marcus Stroman was one of many Jays who saw their good efforts wasted on offence and defence in a 6-5 loss to the division-leading Boston Red Sox on Monday night.

Stroman turned a one-run lead over to Danny Barnes in the seventh, looking to secure his team-high 12th win. But though the Jays bullpen has been getting by in a busy August, a Hanley Ramirez lead-off single and 0-2 count homer by No. 8 hitter Christian Vazquez gave Boston life.

They went on to light up a procession of relievers at the Rogers Centre. When combined with stranded base runners, it was enough cushion that a ninth inning two-run Justin Smoak homer off Sox closer Craig Kimbrel fell short.

“I know (the pen) has been working hard and sooner or later it catches up with you,” manager John Gibbons said. “Barnsey was coming out hard, but he left a ball out there and then Vazquez hit the home run and (Ryan) Tepera walks a guy on four straight (pitches), you don’t see that often. It’s a long year, but we can expand (the roster) in September — and we don’t have to use them all.”

The tight ending, with Kimbrel following Smoak’s 36th homer by walking Jose Bautista before Kendrys Morales popped out, gave the 35,650 fans on hand at least a taste of some September drama, like they enjoyed in recent years against long-time rivals such as Boston.

Despite dropping their past four heading to Toronto, the Sox found their feet as well as the one element they’ve missed this season — home run power. Vazquez and Eduardo Nunez went deep in handing Toronto its eight loss in 10 games.

“It’s a tough lineup over there,” Stroman said. “They battle, take pitches, work counts. Any time you can keep that team to under three runs, it’s tough to do. I felt great and thought I had a good mix. I did everything in my power to keep my team in the game.”

However, three times through five innings, the Jays wasted potential big pay days, including runners at first and second with a run in and nobody out. Ryan Goins, extending his hit streak to seven games, had driven in Kevin Pillar, but Raffy Lopez’s bunt attempt turned into a wimpy pop out. Steve Pearce, right after his third baseline laser landed just foul, grounded into a double play to cap the fourth.

The next inning, with Josh Donaldson and Smoak singling and walking, Bautista flied out to short right. A pass to Morales set up a full house, but Rafael Devers snagged Pillar’s grounder at third and after a second of hesitation, made a nice off-balance throw to force Donaldson at the plate. Pillar was certainly the right man up in that instance, hitting with a runner in scoring position in four straight games. On a busy night for Stroman fielding grounders, Sox starter Drew Pomeranz stabbed Darwin Barney’s drive to end the fifth.

“That was a big inning, big shot there,” sighed Gibbons. “A great play by the young kid (Devers).”

With Big Papi, a.k.a. David Ortiz, now retired, Mookie Betts is set to become Boston’s designated Jays killer, taking a .409 average against Toronto this season into Monday’s game. Betts has more RBIs against the Jays — 17 — than any other team this year, but did it with the glove in the third with his own leaping grab at the right-field wall, robbing Morales of his second extra-base hit of the night.

Donaldson’s string of setbacks from Sunday in Minnesota continued into Monday’s game. After a throwing error and getting picked off first against the Twins, he, too, grounded into a double play in the first inning. But from there, a Smoak walk and back to back doubles down the right-field corner by Bautista and Morales staked Stroman to a 2-0 lead.

Stroman was about to retire his sixth straight batter to open the game, until Pearce lost Ramirez’s sinking liner in the lights. Ramirez was singled to third by Vazquez and scored when Toronto catcher Lopez’s attempt at Vazquez at second sailed into centre field. In the third, Nunez drove a 3-1 Stroman offering just over the left-field wall, but it was the last run he allowed. Stroman’s four Ks on the night came on 99 pitches.

Stroman had a little game of chicken going on with Sox Adam Benintendi in the first inning. The rookie base thief, ranking second among all first-year players with 15 steals, got to first on a hard drive off a diving Barney and Stroman threw four times to first before getting Betts and Mitch Moreland to fly out. Benintendi is the first rookie in five years to steal at least 15 and hit 15 homers.

Toronto’s extended its run to nine game with a homer at Rogers, though it was a relatively another quiet night for the top of the order as a whole. Pomeranz improved his record to 14-4, while Kimbrel had his 30th save, putting down Pearce, Donaldson and Smoak.

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