TORONTO -- The Red Sox arrived at Rogers Centre mired in their longest losing streak of the season (four games) and with their lead in the American League East down to a mere 2 1/2 games. They left in a much better place, riding a pinch-hit two-run homer by Mitch Moreland and a strong pitching performance by Rick Porcello en route to a 7-1 win over the Blue Jays that completed a three-game sweep.
During that same span, the Yankees lost three straight to the Indians, and Boston's advantage is back to 5 1/2 games entering a four-game rivalry showdown in the Bronx that starts Thursday night.
"We definitely have a good feeling, obviously," said Porcello. "Being able to come in here and take three games. We're in good position going into the series against the Yankees."
With the game locked in a 1-1 tie in the seventh, Red Sox manager John Farrell called on Moreland to hit for Chris Young. That paid off in a big way, as Moreland turned on a 2-1 fastball by Blue Jays reliever Tom Koehler and hammered a go-ahead, two-run moonshot.
Since the start of the 2014 season, Moreland leads the Majors with a .474 average (18-for-38) as a pinch-hitter (minimum 40 plate appearances). The left-handed hitter added a two-run single in a four-run eighth.
"One of the things that helps is it's one of the tougher things to do, I think, so you don't really go up there putting pressure on yourself, because I don't know how much is expected of you in those situations," said Moreland. "I just try to go up there and be ready to go from the first pitch when I get my opportunity."
Backed by Moreland's heroics, Porcello won for the fifth time in his last six starts, allowing six hits and a run over 6 2/3 innings. The righty walked two and struck out seven.
"I thought he had a good mix of pitches tonight," said Farrell. "He threw a lot of strikes. He and [catcher Christian] Vazquez work very well together."
Though it was hard to remember by the end of the night, the Blue Jays jumped out first on a homer by Raffy Lopez in the third. But Hanley Ramirez tied it with a solo shot in the fifth.
From there, it was all Boston.
Blue Jays lefty J.A. Happ turned in a strong effort, allowing four hits and a run over six innings in a no-decision. Toronto has lost five of its last six divisional games and is now 23-34 against the AL East this season, which at .404 is the club's lowest winning percentage in the division since 2013. The Blue Jays also have been swept twice at home in the same season by the Sox for the first time in franchise history.
"There's no doubt we got beat," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "Really, a couple of those games, today going into the seventh inning, we had the lead one night and tied tonight. Then they blew it open. They have a good team over there. Some pretty good athletic hitting guys."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Porcello escapes: Trailing, 1-0, in the bottom of the fourth, Porcello appeared to be in trouble with the bases loaded and one out. But he snared a liner off the bat of Darwin Barney for the second out, and then struck out Lopez looking on a 93.1-mph fastball to end the inning. The momentum went to the Red Sox from there.
"That's one of those plays you just react and hope you catch the ball," Gibbons lamented after the game. "The ball catches you. Who knows what a difference that might have made."
Hanley heating up: Fresh off Porcello's escape, Ramirez opened the fifth by hammering his second solo homer in as many nights to tie the game at 1. After slumping for most of August, Ramirez was demoted to the No. 7 spot in the batting order on Monday. He responded in the three games at Toronto, going 5-for-12, including four extra-base hits.
"The last couple of nights he's put some really good swings on some pitches, particularly against Happ, who he hasn't had a lot of success against," said Farrell. "He works a count deep, gets a fastball over the plate and does what he can do. His importance to us against both lefties and righties can't be overstated. Good to see, particularly against a tough left-handed pitcher."
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The Red Sox have stolen 24 bases in 13 games against the Blue Jays this season, their most in a season against one opponent since getting 30 in 1943 vs. the St. Louis Browns.
Toronto lost eight of its nine games against Boston at home this season and was outscored 57-23.
The Blue Jays allowed 11 stolen bases in this three-game series without throwing anybody out. That's the most stolen bases allowed in a three-game series without a caught stealing in franchise history. This also marked the first time since 2002 that Toronto allowed 11 stolen bases in a series.
WHAT'S NEXT Red Sox: The Sox head to Yankee Stadium for a four-game series with their rivals, starting with Thursday's 7:05 p.m. ET contest. Lefty Eduardo Rodriguez (4-4, 4.19 ERA) takes the ball for Boston. He will be opposed by veteran CC Sabathia, who has been tough on the Red Sox this season.
Blue Jays: Right-hander Marco Estrada (6-8, 5.04 ERA) will open Toronto's series in Baltimore on Thursday night at 7:05 p.m. ET. Estrada has allowed three runs over six innings in each of his last two starts, against the Cubs and Twins.