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O'Neill homers again, Red Sox come back to edge the Blue Jays 4-3

TORONTO — An injury-depleted bullpen proved costly for the Toronto Blue Jays in a 4-3 loss to the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday night.
Toronto Blue Jays' Addison Barger (47) scores ahead of the tag from Boston Red Sox catcher Reese McGuire (3) during second inning American League MLB baseball action in Toronto on Tuesday, June 18, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

TORONTO — An injury-depleted bullpen proved costly for the Toronto Blue Jays in a 4-3 loss to the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday night.

With closer Jordan Romano and fellow ninth-inning weapon Yimi Garcia out with right elbow issues, the Blue Jays have had to change roles for some of their relievers.

The Red Sox took advantage by scoring twice in the eighth inning for a comeback victory that extended their win streak to four games.

"It's tough when the trusted names and the guys that have been really good for a long time here and especially recently are not there," said Blue Jays manager John Schneider. "But it's an opportunity for other guys to step up."

Left-hander Brendon Little did well to strike out Rafael Devers with Boston threatening in the seventh but he gave up a game-tying solo homer to Tyler O'Neill to lead off the eighth.

Little (0-1) — making the 11th big-league appearance of his career — was charged with a second run when right-hander Chad Green gave up a two-out single to Ceddanne Rafaela.

The ball deflected off shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa's glove, allowing pinch-runner David Hamilton to score the go-ahead run from second base.

"It’s awesome to help the team in that situation right there," said Rafaela. "They needed me to have a good at-bat so I was trying to get the best pitch I could to drive him in."

Zack Kelly (1-1) worked 1 1/3 innings for the win and closer Kenley Jansen pitched a clean ninth for his 13th save.

"You put yourself in position to hopefully win and it just didn't work out," Schneider said.

Justin Turner scored twice and Chris Bassitt made a quality start for the Blue Jays (35-38), who will look to avoid a sweep in the three-game series finale on Wednesday.

"I would say we just didn't make a play or two tonight and that's baseball," Bassitt said. "We've got to win tomorrow. That's it."

Leadoff hitter Spencer Horwitz started Toronto on the right foot by golfing a pitch from Boston starter Tanner Houck that just missed clearing the wall in left-centre field. Houck kept him at second base though by retiring the next three batters in order.

Boston also led off with a double in the second inning as O'Neill, from Burnaby, B.C., lashed a ball into the left-field corner. He scored on a two-out single by Dominic Smith.

Toronto threatened again in the bottom half and this time delivered. Turner and Addison Barger hit back-to-back singles and they scored on Ernie Clement's double.

Boston pulled even in the sixth inning when Rafael Devers doubled and scored on Masataka Yoshida's single up the middle.

Kiner-Falefa helped Toronto take the lead when he took advantage of first baseman Dominic Smith playing well off the bag. A roller inside the line brought home Turner from second base.

That ended Houck's appearance at 5 2/3 innings and 103 pitches.

The right-hander started the day with the fourth-best ERA in the major leagues at 2.08, but three earned runs bumped that up to 2.23. He allowed seven hits, two walks and had five strikeouts.

Bassitt allowed seven hits and two walks over six innings. He had six strikeouts.

O'Neill, who hit two home runs in the series opener Monday, leads the Red Sox with 15 homers this season.

"It seems like everybody is locked in and understanding their roles, how we’re going to use them," said Boston manager Alex Cora. "It’s been fun to watch."

The game took two hours 56 minutes to play.


The near-sellout crowd of 38,595 at Rogers Centre let out a roar when the video screen showed the Edmonton Oilers had a 3-0 lead on the Florida Panthers in the second period of Game 5 of the Stanley Cup final.

The Oilers went on to win 5-3 to force a sixth game in the best-of-seven series. Edmonton superstar forward Connor McDavid grew up in Newmarket, Ont., about 50 kilometres north of downtown Toronto.


Before the game, the Blue Jays placed shortstop Bo Bichette on the 10-day injured list with a right calf strain. The move was retroactive to Saturday.

The Blue Jays also recalled infielder Orelvis Martinez — the team's second-ranked prospect — from Triple-A Buffalo.


Kevin Gausman (5-5, 4.08) was scheduled to start the series finale against fellow right-hander Brayan Bello (6-4, 5.00).

Both teams have an off-day Thursday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 18, 2024.

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Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press