BOSTON — Rick Porcello began the season looking like the pitcher who won the 2016 American League Cy Young Award.
Porcello, 11-17 last season after going 22-4 in 2016, opened this season 5-0 with two no-decisions and a 2.14 ERA in his first seven starts. But in his last four outings, since winning May 4, he is 0-2 and has allowed 17 earned runs in 21 innings — for a 7.29 ERA. His ERA over his last seven starts is 5.18 and was reached for six runs in 3 2/3 innings last time out.
He faces the Jays, a team he has had trouble with through the years, for the second time this season. He pitched seven innings, gave up three runs and got a no-decision in Toronto April 24, and comes into this game 9-9 with a 4.92 ERA in 22 games, 21 starts, lifetime against the Jays.
Porcello (6-2, 3.74 ERA) races Estrada, who has had a rough ride and enters this start 2-5 with a 4.70 ERA.
The righty is just 4-7 with a 4.44 ERA in 16 games, 14 starts, against the Red Sox, losing to them twice already this year. But he has been better at Fenway Park, where he is 3-3 with a 4.50 in nine games, seven of them starts.
The Jays (25-29, 9-17 in May) came to Boston after winning two of three over the weekend in Philadelphia, but the Red Sox, losers to the Atlanta Braves Sunday, made it 3-1 on their six-game homestand with an 8-3 handling of the Jays on Monday.
“Theyve got a tough lineup, they always have,” said Blue Jays manager John Gibbons. “Its tough to shut em down.”
The victory raised Bostons lead over the New York Yankees atop the American League East to two games — the Red Sox now an MLB-best 37-17 on the season.
Both teams could be missing a key part in Tuesday nights game. Torontos Josh Donaldson left Mondays game and joined Torontos ever-growing injury list with left calf tightness, while Bostons Mookie Betts missed his second straight with left side tightness.
Asked before Mondays game about Betts, manager Alex Cora said, “We do feel that probably tomorrow might be a day that he will come back. I would prefer to stay away from him for two days if everything is going this way. Theres no need to push him. It makes no sense.”
Donaldson compared his calf cramps to something that caused him to miss time during spring training and said he didnt think it was anything serious and he will see how he feels Tuesday — though he may well be rested. He did miss six weeks with a calf strain last season.
He was 1-for-1 with two walks Monday.
“Its a little sore right now, still a little tight,” he said. “Were going to do some treatment and stuff on it and see, just kind of play it by ear, see how it responds.”
The third baseman is 12-for-39 (.308) lifetime against Porcello, while other Jays have struggled against the veteran. Russell Martin is 4-for-32 (.125) with a homer, while Kendrys Morales is 8-for-39 (.205) with two homers and Devon Travis is 4-for-18 (.222).
Dustin Pedroia, who played his first two games of the season over the weekend before resting Monday and still looking for his first 2018 hit, is 14-for-31 (.452) and the sizzling Andrew Benintendi 6-for-18 (.333) lifetime against Estrada. But Brock Holt is 2-for-17 (.118), Christian Vazquez 2-for-15 (.133), Betts and Xander Bogaerts both 4-for-29 (.138), Eduardo Nunez 2-for-14 (.143), Jackie Bradley Jr., 3-for-18 (.167) with a homer and Mitch Moreland 4-for-21 (.190) with a homer off the Toronto pitcher.
Benintendi, a double shy of the cycle Sunday, is on first. In his last 21 games, he has batted .366 (30-for-82) with a .438 on-base percentage and .720 slugging and has six homers, five doubles, three triples and 22 RBIs.
This is the fifth time in Red Sox history — the first since 2007 — that theyve won 37 of their first 54 games.