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Red Sox tee off on Kikuchi, beat Blue Jays in opener

Tyler O'Neill Boston Red Sox Tyler O'Neill - The Canadian Press

TORONTO — A couple of Canadians helped the Boston Red Sox to a 7-3 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays on Monday night at Rogers Centre.

Tyler O'Neill hit two of Boston's four solo homers and starter Nick Pivetta threw seven effective innings for the win as the Red Sox prevented the Blue Jays from returning to the .500 mark.

"I wanted to show up in front of the home crowd, I guess you could say," O'Neill said. "A lot of maple leaves around walking around today, so that’s fun to see. I made sure to get my Tim Hortons this morning."

Rafael Devers and Ceddanne Rafaela also went deep off Toronto starter Yusei Kikuchi, who lasted only four innings.

"There were obviously some pitches that I didn't locate too well," Kikuchi said via an interpreter. "But I think they also had a good approach as well."

Boston outhit Toronto 11-10 in the opener of the three-game series between American League East division foes. Justin Turner and Davis Schneider hit solo homers for the Blue Jays.

Pivetta (4-4), a Victoria native, allowed three earned runs, nine hits and a walk while striking out four.

"We had the right guy on the mound for the game tonight because of who he is and his resilience," said Boston manager Alex Cora.

O'Neill, a native of Burnaby, B.C., and Devers share the team lead with 14 home runs this season.

"They put good swings on pitches that were kind of in the middle," said Blue Jays manager John Schneider.

Boston (38-35) won for the sixth time in eight games while Toronto fell to 35-37.

Kikuchi (4-6) fanned the first two batters he faced before giving up back-to-back blasts to O'Neill and Devers.

Toronto halved the lead in the second inning after Turner walked and George Springer followed with a broken-bat flare that dropped in shallow right field.

Turner hustled to third base — dodging large shards of Springer's bat on the basepath — and scored on a sacrifice fly by Isiah Kiner-Falefa. Ernie Clement reached on a single but was later thrown out on a double-steal attempt to end the inning.

Rafaela led off the third with his eighth homer of the year and O'Neill went deep later in the inning for the seventh multihomer game of his career.

"It’s always fun coming back home and breathing that northern air, just being up here for a little bit," O'Neill said.

The Red Sox padded their lead in the fourth after opening the inning with three straight singles. Bobby Dalbec hit a liner that Kevin Kiermaier bobbled in centre field, allowing Connor Wong to score from second base without a throw.

Kikuchi struck out a pair with runners on the corners and escaped with a pickoff play that led to Romy Gonzalez being tagged out after a rundown.

The Toronto starter allowed five earned runs and seven hits. He had seven strikeouts.

Turner went deep in the sixth inning for his fifth homer of the year, briefly giving the announced crowd of 29,907 some life.

Boston tacked on two insurance runs in the seventh off reliever Tim Mayza. Rob Refsnyder drove in Rafaela with a single and Jarren Duran scored on a sacrifice fly by Devers.

In the bottom half, Schneider's ninth homer of the year nearly reached the 300 level just inside the left-field pole.

Toronto put two runners on in the ninth inning before Kenley Jansen came on to get Schneider on a pop-up, ending the game in two hours 43 minutes. It was Jansen's 12th save of the season.


Before the game, Blue Jays right-hander Yimi Garcia was placed on the 15-day injured list due to right elbow ulnar neuritis.

Left-hander Brandon Eisert, who made 20 appearances with Triple-A Buffalo this season, was selected to the roster. The reliever pitched two scoreless innings in his big-league debut.

Boston shortstop David Hamilton left the game in the fourth inning due to left side discomfort.


Toronto's Vladimir Guerrero Jr. has a slim lead on Baltimore's Ryan Mountcastle in early voting for the American League's first base position at the 2024 all-star game.

The first phase of all-star voting continues through June 27 at noon ET. Guerrero is looking to make his third start for the AL side and fourth career all-star appearance.


Chris Bassitt (6-6, 3.56 ERA) was scheduled to start for the Blue Jays on Tuesday night against fellow right-hander Tanner Houck (7-5, 2.08).

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 17, 2024.

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