By MATTHEW CARROLL Associated Press
BOSTON (AP) _ Jon Lester pitched into the eighth inning before leaving with an apparent injury, and Dustin Pedroia homered in a seven-run second to help the Boston Red Sox beat the Toronto Blue Jays 7-4 in the opener of a four-game series Thursday night.
Toronto, which reeled off 11 straight wins this month, had won 12 of its past 14 games and 15 of 19 to close within 61/2 games of the AL East-leading Red Sox.
Then the Blue Jays ran into Lester.
The left-hander retired 10 straight to begin the game and didn’t allow a hit until the fifth. He came out after giving up consecutive singles to start the eighth and running the count to 3-0 on Emilio Bonifacio.
Red Sox manager John Farrell came darting out of the dugout as the infielders crowded around Lester. Moments later, Lester walked off the field and Junichi Tazawa came on in relief.
The Blue Jays capitalized, cutting the deficit to 7-4 on a sacrifice fly by Jose Reyes and a groundout by Jose Bautista.
Koji Uehara pitched a perfect ninth for his third save.
Lester (8-4) was charged with four runs on five hits with five strikeouts and three walks in winning for just the second time in his last eight starts.
After starting the season 6-0 with a 2.72 ERA through his first nine starts, Lester struggled over his past seven, going 1-4 with a 7.30 ERA.
He returned to form just in time to face baseball’s best team in June _ and Boston’s bats provided him all the support he needed.
The Red Sox jumped all over Chien-Ming Wang, tagging the right-hander for seven runs while batting around in the second.
Wang (1-1), making his fourth start for Toronto this season, lasted just 1 2-3 innings, allowing all seven runs on six hits with two walks and no strikeouts.
Meanwhile, Lester needed only 30 pitches to get through three innings and didn’t allow a baserunner until Bautista walked with one out in the fourth.
Melky Cabrera singled for Toronto’s first hit with one out in the fifth and moved to second on a base hit by Rajai Davis. Maicer Izturis drove them both home with a double to left-center.
Yet it wasn’t enough to make up for Boston’s blistering start.
Wang allowed the first seven batters to reach base during the drawn-out second.
David Ortiz and Mike Carp walked, Daniel Nava delivered an RBI single off the Green Monster in left field and Jarrod Saltalamacchia followed with an RBI single up the middle to make it 2-0.
Stephen Drew’s double to right scored Nava, and consecutive base hits by Jose Iglesias and Jacoby Ellsbury stretched the lead to 5-0 before Wang even managed an out.
It got even worse.
After inducing a double play, Wang served up Pedroia’s fifth homer of the season, a two-run shot that landed in the first row of Green Monster seats and ended Wang’s evening after just 45 pitches.
NOTES: The Red Sox played their 81st game, marking the 16th consecutive season Boston has owned a winning record halfway through the season. … Red Sox RHP Clay Buchholz, on the DL with a neck strain, has been shut down for two to three days with lingering soreness in his right shoulder, according to Farrell. Buchholz (9-0, 1.71 ERA) underwent an MRI on Wednesday that revealed inflammation in the bursa sac area, but no structural damage. Farrell said he hopes Buchholz will resume throwing this weekend. … Ellsbury has hit safely in eight straight games and 22 of the past 25. … Wang fell to 6-7 in 16 career appearances against the Red Sox. … Toronto RHP Josh Johnson (1-2, 4.60 ERA) will face Allen Webster (0-2, 11.25) in the second game of the series Friday. . Carp returned to the lineup after missing three games and eight of the past nine with right hamstring tightness.
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