Red Sox inch closer to division title

The Associated Press
Jimmy Golen

BOSTON–Rick Porcello struggled in his final playoff tune-up.
No matter, he had another AL Cy Young winner to bail him out.
Porcello gave up three runs in the first inning, and five in all, but David Price came out of the bullpen with four-straight outs to help the Boston Red Sox top Toronto 10-7 last night and lower their magic number to two to clinch the AL East title.
“I think he’ll be a weapon out there,” said Jays’ manager John Gibbons, who had Price on his team for the 2015 pennant race and playoffs.
“It was good to see him back out there,” Gibbons added.
“I think he’s going to be huge for them in the playoffs.”
The Red Sox maintained a three-game lead in the division over the second-place N.Y. Yankees, who beat Tampa Bay 6-1 last night.
Boston, which already is guaranteed at least a wild-card berth, could clinch the first back-to-back AL East titles in franchise history with a victory over Houston today and a New York loss to the Rays.
“The clock’s running out. We’ve got to win ballgames,” Porcello stressed.
“Talk about the playoffs and stuff, but we haven’t clinched the division yet.
“We have to do that to put ourselves in a position where we don’t have to play a wild-card game,” he noted.
“These games are important.”
Hanley Ramirez and Xander Bogaerts homered in a five-run third inning for Boston after Porcello (11-17) gave up the three runs in the first.
The Red Sox scored one in the first and three in the second, then took a 9-4 lead in the third to chase Marco Estrada (10-9) and snap a two-game losing streak.
Porcello allowed five runs, seven hits, and two walks while striking out eight in 5 2/3 innings.
A year after winning a career-high 22 games to earn AL Cy Young honours, the 28-year-old right-hander posted the most losses in his career.
With a chance to become baseball’s first 20-game loser since 2003, Porcello went 2-0 with a no-decision in his last three starts.
“After a rough start to the ballgame, he settled down just enough,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell.
“And the offence covered it.”
Price pitched 1 1/3 perfect innings, striking out three, as he works his way back from left elbow problems that kept him on the disabled list for most of the season.
It was his third relief appearance since returning on Sept. 14; he is 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA, striking out nine in six innings.
“The three appearances he’s made for us out of the bullpen, they’ve been extremely consistent and powerful,” Farrell noted.
“Hopefully, he’s getting adapted a little bit more to the role.”
Estrada allowed eight runs (seven earned), nine hits, and a walk, striking out two while recording just seven outs and losing for the first time in six decisions.
He only had allowed two earned runs in his previous three starts against Boston this season.
Jose Bautista, Darwin Barney, and Teoscar Hernandez all homered for the Jays, who hit 10 home runs in the three-game series.
Hernandez now has eight since he was called up on Sept. 1–a franchise record for rookies in the month.
“We hung in there. We scored some runs,” Gibbons noted. “We just couldn’t stop them.”