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Blue Jays pull out 3-2 win behind Happ's strong start

Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

Red Sox 2 Blue Jays 3

After a brutal loss last night, the Blue Jays badly needed a win to not only pull out of their current tailspin but avoid falling further back of Boston for the division lead. And though they didn't exactly fire on all cylinders and ended up clinging to a victory that was narrower than it should be been, they all count the same in the standings.

J.A. Happ was spectacular in the early part of the game, putting up zeroes after a rough night last night. He worked around a walk and hit-by-pitch in the 2nd inning, but was otherwise perfect in efficiently taking a no-hitter into the 5th inning when it was broken up by a one out single. He lost the shutout the next inning when Dustin Pedroia lined a leadoff shot over the left field wall, then set down the next three, with a mid-80s pitch count.

Meanwhile, the bats had staked him to a comfortable lead off Eduardo Rodriguez. Russell Martin walked leading off the second inning, and two batters later Melvin Upton Jr. redeemed his defensive miscues last night with a long ball to give the Jays a 2-0 lead.

They tacked another in the 4th, as Devon Travis reach on a leadoff double but was out trying to advance when Josh Donaldson grounded to shortstop. Edwin Encarnacion reached on an error by Aaron Hill, and Jose Bautista capitalized with an RBI single. However, they could not extend the lead any further despite two on with one out and Rodriguez on the ropes, as Martin and Troy Tulowitzki struck out back to back.

The bats went quiet in the middle innings allowing Rodriguez to complete 6 innings despite a very high pitch count after 3 innings. They had another shot to score in the 7th inning, as Pillar singled with one out and was running with one out as Travis singled for his third hit, going to third with one out. But a struggling Donaldson could not buy a break, lining a ball right to short, and they failed to score an insurance run.

Why was it an insurance run? Happ took a 3-1 lead into the 7th, the first four balls which were hit towards Bautista in right field (right after a prescient suggestion that Pompey go in for him as a defensive replacement). The first could have been caught by a player with good range, the second should have been caught, but the Red Sox had runners at the corners with none out and the go ahead run up and it was the end of Happ's day.

Being the 7th inning, that meant it was Joaguin Benoit time. He induced a shallow blooper down the line reminiscent of the ball that fell in last night, but a hard charging Bautista got to it. The next one was even more worrying, as it kept carrying towards the wall and looked like it might continue over the fence, but Bautista caught it crashing into the wall. It was an easy sac fly, but the lead was preserved, and Benoit got a strike out to end the inning.

The Jays needed the back end of their bullpen to make the close lead stick, and they did. Jason Grilli worked around a two out error by Tulo, and Roberto Osuna worked around a leadoff walk including blowing away an overmatched Jackie Bradley Jr on three fastballs to preserve a critical 3-2 win.

Source: FanGraphs

Jays of the Day: Upton (+0.189 WPA); Travis (+0.118, 3/4); Benoit (+0.169); Osuna (+0.161); Grilli (+0.120). Happ only ends up at +0.026, but he definitely gets one as well.

Suckage: Donaldson (-0.141, 0/4)

The rubbermatch goes at the usual Sunday 1:07 pm start time with Aaron Sanchez taking on everyone's favourite suncreen user, Clay Buchholz. Sole possession of first place in the East will be on the line.