TORONTO — Dropping two of three games to the Boston Red Sox in Toronto is not what the Blue Jays wanted.
But Troy Tulowitzki and his teammates say the American League East pennant race is far from over. He hit a grand slam and Edwin Encarnacion added two home runs on Sunday as Toronto dropped the rubber match of their three-game series to Boston 11-8.
The loss puts the Blue Jays into a tie with the Baltimore Orioles for second in the AL East, two games back of the Red Sox.
Toronto had been in first as recently as Sept. 6, but has lost seven of its past 10 games to tumble down the standings. At the same time, Boston has won seven of its past 10 and Baltimore six of its past 10, including a 3-1 win over Detroit on Sunday.
"There’s still a lot of time left. What, 20 games left? There’s a lot of time," said Tulowitzki, who noted the Blue Jays final regular-season series will be in Boston. "A lot of things can happen. I think we’ve been jockeying for position the whole year, just right now we’re two games back.
"We would’ve liked to have won the series but, unfortunately, we didn’t. We’ll move on."
Jackie Bradley Jr., David Ortiz and Hanley Ramirez all hit home runs as Boston’s big bats dominated the game. Clay Buchholz (6-10) threw just three innings, giving up six runs before making way for the Red Sox (80-62) bullpen. Heath Hembree, Noe Ramirez, Robbie Ross Jr., Brad Ziegler, Fernando Abad, Matt Barnes, Koji Uehera and Craig Kimbrel all came on in relief.
Hembree allowed two runs, while Ross (3-2) earned the win.
"It’s two good teams," said Tulowitzki, still wearing eyeblack in the Blue Jays clubhouse. "They’re good over there, we’re good. They know that, we know that. It’s going to come down to the end and it’s going to be exciting."
Starter Aaron Sanchez gave up six runs over 3 2/3 innings of work, striking out two for Toronto (78-64). Brett Cecil, Joe Biagini, Aaron Loup, Bo Schultz, Joaquin Benoit, Danny Barnes, Matt Dermody and Ryan Tepera all combined for 5 1/3 innings, giving up a combined five runs.
Schultz was charged with the loss, his first of the season.
"We’re fine. It’s the beginning of September. There’s a lot of games left," said Sanchez, who struggled with command of his curveball as a blister on his middle finger bothered him. "There’s a lot of in-division games left with a lot of teams in this division, not only with us, but with the four other teams playing each other that can help us out. We understand what we’ve got to do."
Encarnacion hit his first home run in the first inning, a solo shot over the left-centre field wall to tie it 1-1. Bradley responded with a three-run homer the next inning, driving in Brock Holt and Sandy Leon.
Buchholz walked Russell Martin with the bases loaded to bring home Donaldson and cut Boston’s lead to 4-2. On the next pitch, Tulowitzki blasted a no-doubt home run over the left-field wall, bringing the 47,816 in attendance at Rogers Centre to their feet with chants of "TU-LO!" and giving Toronto its first lead of the game, 6-4.
Xander Bogaerts tied it 6-6 for Boston with a single in the fourth, scoring Bradley and Dustin Pedroia.
Encarnacion crushed his second homer of the day in the home half of the fourth, a two-run blast for an 8-6 Toronto lead. Ramirez replied in the next inning, with his homer making it 8-7. Ortiz then smashed a two-run shot to deep right field to make it 10-8 in the sixth.
Leon added to Boston’s lead in the seventh with a double that bounced past Encarnacion at first base and into right field. That gave Holt more than enough time to score.
Blue Jays fans gave Ortiz a standing ovation as he returned to the dugout in the eighth inning, his final regular-season at bat in Toronto before his planned retirement in the upcoming off-season.
First base umpire Jim Joyce was loudly booed in the bottom of the ninth after his call on the field was reversed, turning a double by Martin into a foul ball before the officials had looked at a video replay. After watching the replay, the foul call was upheld and Blue Jays manager John Gibbons was ejected for arguing.