J.A. Happ struggled with his command and Toronto's offence sputtered in key situations as the Blue Jays dropped a 3-1 decision to the Boston Red Sox.
"There's a line between not giving in and making quality pitches and I was constantly on the wrong side of that line tonight," said Happ, who gave up two earned runs, three hits and seven walks in 3 2-3 innings. "I made it tough on myself but our bullpen came in and did an awesome job, kept us right in the ballgame.
"We were in the ballgame the whole time, we had an opportunity."
Happ (2-2) and four Toronto relievers had a bend-but-don't-break night, combining for 10 walks, six hits and a wild pitch. The most walks the Red Sox had in a game this season prior to Thursday was nine in a 7-2 win over the Cleveland Indians on April 16.
Toronto lost its second consecutive game to Boston a few hours after putting right-hander Josh Johnson on the 15-day disabled list with inflammation in his right triceps. Reliever Brad Lincoln was called up from triple-A Buffalo to take his place on the roster.
Johnson is 0-1 with a 6.86 earned-run average in four starts since being acquired in a blockbuster off-season trade with the Miami Marlins.
Left-hander Ricky Romero will make his season debut for the Blue Jays on Friday after one start in single-A Dunedin.
Blue Jays manager John Gibbons suggested after the game that Happ may be struggling with mechanical issues in his delivery.
"I think he's just lost his release point," said Gibbons. "He's the type of pitcher where he pitches up in the zone and sometimes he loses that. He's a big guy and it's easier to sometimes lose that release point, repeat your delivery, whatever it is.
"It happens two times and when that does happen you try to force it, you try a little harder and it gets tougher."
Happ, however, thinks his control issues are in his head.
"I've looked at the mechanical thing and everything," said Happ. "I think its just a mental thing of finding a way to get it done and make a quality pitch."
Ryan Dempster (2-2) of Gibsons, B.C., pitched six innings for Boston (20-8), improving to 6-0 against Canadian teams. Joel Hanrahan pitched a scoreless ninth for his fourth save on the year.
"I'm looking for more expansion teams in Canada," said Dempster, who became the first Canadian-born Red Sox starter to win in Canada since Rheal Cormier beat the Blue Jays in Toronto in 1995. "That's kind of the goal. Maybe Vancouver will get a team, or Winnipeg or something, so I can hopefully keep that going."
Jacoby Ellsbury and Mike Carp led the Red Sox offence with a hit and an RBI each.
Both Happ and Gibbons pointed to the strong performance of the bullpen to keep Toronto within reach.
"We had opportunities," said Gibbons. "It was a tight ball game, we come up with a big hit there, move the baseball somehow. Who knows, it might turn out differently. You never know, for sure."
Brett Lawrie of Langley, B.C., hit a home run for the Blue Jays (10-19), while Colby Rasmus' single in the fourth inning was the 500th hit of his career. Rasmus was 3 for 4 on the night with three singles.
Lawrie got the Blue Jays on the board early, hitting a home run to deep centre on Dempster's third pitch of the game. After Lind popped out to right field, Bautista reached first on a single up the third-base line but the inning ended when Edwin Encarnacion grounded into a double play.
Happ laboured in the second, giving up a double to Mike Napoli to start the inning. He struck out Daniel Nava, but then Will Middlebrooks got on base with a walk. After Boston loaded the bases, Stephen Drew drove Middlebrooks in with a sacrifice fly to right field.
Ellsbury's popfly to centre ended the inning but Happ trailed 2-1 and had thrown 54 pitches after two.
Toronto loaded the base in the third after three walks, but Encarnacion again grounded into a double play to end the threat.
After getting a double play to start the fourth Happ walked three batters in a row and was pulled in favour of Lincoln, who ended the threat when Dustin Pedroia grounded into a forceout at second.
Boston added to its lead in the sixth inning, as Ross got on base with a walk and was driven home by Ellsbury's single to left field.
The Blue Jays loaded the bases in the seventh after a Rasmus hit and walks to Munenori Kawasaki and Lawrie.
However, Adam Lind struck out swinging to keep Toronto down by two.
"We couldn't string anything together," said Lawrie. "We had a couple situations with the bases loaded and we just couldn't capitalize on it. Not really much more to say about it."
J.P. Arencibia and Melky Cabrera both struck out with a runner on in the Blue Jays' half of the eighth.
Rasmus led off the ninth with a single, but pinch hitter Rajai Davis popped out and Kawasaki grounded into a double play to seal the victory for Boston.
Notes: Toronto designated right-hander Justin Germano for assignment after the game. ... Canada's rock music scene was well represented at the game. Alan Frew of Glass Tiger sang the national anthems, while Moe Berg of the Pursuit of Happiness threw out the opening pitch. Blue Jays mascot Ace was dressed as guitarist Angus Young of AC/DC fame for Rock Music Night. ... Red Sox manager John Farrell was roundly booed by the 25,851 in attendance when his name was announced over the public-address system. Farrell managed the Blue Jays for the 2011 and 2012 season. ... The roof at Rogers Centre for the first time this season.