TORONTO -- A trip to Rogers Centre might have been just the cure for what was ailing the Red Sox's lineup.
Mookie Betts, Pablo Sandoval and Mitch Moreland all had three hits as Boston's lineup enjoyed arguably its best game of the season in an 8-7 win over the Blue Jays on Tuesday night. Left-hander Brian Johnson picked up the first victory of his big league career and the Red Sox extended their winning streak to four games with the impressive showing.
Boston finished with 15 hits, which included Betts' first home run of the season and Moreland's Major League-leading 10th double of the year. Not to be outdone, Sandoval reached base four times to finish 3-for-4 with an RBI single and a walk. Most of the damage was off Blue Jays right-hander Marcus Stroman, who allowed six runs on 11 hits and one walk over 4 2/3 innings.
The win moved the 9-5 Red Sox into a share of first place in the American League East with the Yankees and Orioles.
"We're kind of coming around it seems like, putting together some good at-bats, building innings," said Moreland. "It's always nice to be able to do that. We've just got to keep it rolling."
Johnson was making his season debut, and he survived a shaky start to pick up the win in his second Major League start. He allowed two runs in the first but pitched his way out of trouble in the second and finished with four earned runs on seven hits and three walks over five innings. The way Boston was swinging the bat against Stroman and the rest of Toronto's pitching staff, that was enough.
"Oh, it's awesome," Johnson said of the win. "It's everything I dreamed it would be. I want to give basically all the credit to [catcher Christian Vazquez]. He got me through especially the first two innings. But I'm very excited about it."
Toronto made things interesting in the bottom of the ninth against a Red Sox team that had closer Craig Kimbrel unavailable after he pitched in three consecutive games and four of the last five. Key setup man Joe Kelly was also unavailable due to his recent workload. Steve Pearce had an RBI single and then pinch-hitter Ezequiel Carrera cut the lead to one with a two-run homer to left field. That brought the tying run to the plate, but Boston righty Matt Barnes got Devon Travis to hit a weak flare to shortstop for the final out of the game.
"We had to mix and match on a night both Kelly and Kimbrel were unavailable," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "This was a good team win all the way around tonight."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED More from Moreland: Moreland opened the season 0-for-12, but that seems like a distant memory. He has been red hot lately and his upward trend continued in the top of the fifth with an RBI double to left. Moreland leads the Majors with 10 doubles, and he also leads the American League with 11 extra-base hits. He has reached base in 11 consecutive games and the latest double came as part of a three-run inning that chased Stroman from the game. Hanley Ramirez also had an RBI double in the fifth while Sandoval added an RBI single from the right side after lefty reliever Aaron Loup entered the game.
"In the RBI situations, he's using the whole field. That's the best I can say it," said Farrell. "He's got good plate coverage. He's not making himself susceptible to one area of the strike zone or on one particular pitch. He might be giving up a little bit of power for the all-field approach. It's been working for him."
The turning point: Toronto was up 2-0 in the bottom of the second with runners on second and third when Farrell decided to intentionally walk Jose Bautista. That loaded the bases for Kendrys Morales, who already had an RBI single in the first. Johnson, who appeared to be on the ropes, responded by starting the at-bat with a couple of strikes and then got Morales to strike out swinging on an inside curveball that was low and outside of the zone. Troy Tulowitzki then flew out to right field as Johnson escaped without any runs allowed and then watched his offense score three in the top of the third to take the lead.
"We put up a lot of hits tonight, they just had more," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "They had the big ones, more of them with guys on base. There were some good signs there. That doesn't win you anything but it'll happen."
"I'm not going to look too deep into this. I feel great. I just didn't execute in certain situations, but it's all part of it. Keep it moving and focus on my next one." -- Stroman, on allowing 11 or more hits for the third time in his career
"When Mookie gets hot, he's like, ridiculous, you know? He just goes on these runs that you can't get him out." -- Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts, on Betts
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Sandoval's caught-stealing in the fourth inning marked the first baserunner Toronto has thrown out this season. Blue Jays catchers previously were 0-for-7 in their attempts.
Gibbons used his challenge in the top of the eighth inning because he wanted the umpires to take a closer look at a disputed call at first base. Sandoval dove back into the bag after a pickoff attempt by Russell Martin, and he was called safe by umpire Laz Diaz. Following a review, the call on the field stood.
WHAT'S NEXT Red Sox: Right-hander Rick Porcello will try to bounce back from a tough outing five days ago, when he was pounded for eight hits, eight runs and a career-high of four homers over 4 1/3 innings. First pitch of Wednesday's game is scheduled for 7:07 p.m. ET.
Blue Jays: Left-hander Francisco Liriano (0-1, 9.00 ERA) will take the mound when the Blue Jays continue this series against the Red Sox. Liriano bounced back from a rough season debut to allow just two runs over 6 2/3 innings vs. the Orioles in his last outing. The biggest difference was his command, as he went from five walks to eight batters in his first start to just two walks his last time out.