By now Aaron Sanchez is sick and tired of talking about his blasted fingers, which have severely hampered his development into a reliable starter over the past three years.
After being crowned the American League’s ERA champion in 2016, a litany of blisters, broken fingernails and even surgery has crimped the now-27-year-old’s pitching style.
No wonder when Sanchez speaks to reporters he often keeps his right hand tucked up under his T-shirt, almost self-consciously, as if hoping to somehow make his finger troubles disappear.
It was against this backdrop that the angular right-hander took the mound for his 11th start of the Major League Baseball season Wednesday night against the Boston Red Sox.
In his previous outing on Friday in blustery Chicago, Sanchez was forced from the game in the fourth inning by a blister on his right middle finger, so his availability to pitch against Boston was very much in question.
On a night when Vladimir Guerrero Jr., thrilled the customers with his first career home run at Rogers Centre, Sanchez was able to shrug off any finger woes to pitch effectively, but it would all go for naught.
The Red Sox (26-23) overcame a late Toronto comeback to earn a 6-5 victory over the Blue Jays (20-29) in 13 innings on the strength of a home run blast by Boston rookie Michael Chavis off reliever Jimmy Cordero.
It was a game in which the Blue Jays kept fighting back, only to fall just short.
Mookie Betts thought he had won it in the 12th for Boston when he lifted a solo home run shot off Toronto’s Joe Biagini for a 5-4 Boston lead. But Rowdy Tellez stepped to the plate in the bottom half of the inning and stroked his third home run in two games to extend the contest, which took four hours and 30 minutes to complete.
“That was a great game that we had,” Toronto manager Charlie Montoyo said afterwards. “We proved that we can play with the champions over there. And we came back, it was an outstanding game.”
The Blue Jays also trailed 4-3 heading into the bottom of the ninth when Danny Jansen hit a clutch pinch-hit single into right field off Boston reliever Marcus Walden that scored Brandon Drury from third base to tie the contest and send it into extras.
Both teams had exchanged home runs in the eighth, with Rafael Devers going long for the Red Sox that made the score 4-2 for Boston. Justin Smoak then responded in kind for Toronto in the bottom half of the inning to bring Toronto back to within one.
Toronto entered the seventh inning trailing 3-1 when Luke Maile worked a bases loaded walk against Boston reliever Brandon Workman to bring the score to 3-2.
With the victory, the defending World Series champion Red Sox lead the four-game series two games to one.
Montoyo said that Clayton Richard will make the start in the finale Thursday afternoon in what will be his Blue Jays debut.
Sanchez was the big question mark heading into the game for Toronto with the club unsure how effective he would be after his blister problems resurfaced in his previous outing on Friday.
It was cold in Chicago that day and Montoyo said that pitching in adverse conditions seems to aggravate the problem for Sanchez.
He said the club was hopeful that working in the closed and climate-controlled confines of Rogers Centre would help him along.
Sanchez pitched effectively for the most part, allowing two Boston runs off four hits through six innings of work while striking out five. He also hit two batters and threw a wild pitch.
He ran into trouble in the Boston third where the Red Sox touched him up for two runs and a 2-0 lead.
His troubles started when he hit Jackie Bradley Jr. with a pitch that put the Boston lead-off hitter on base. Bradley would eventually advance to third base and score on a Mitch Moreland single.
Bogaerts then drove in Betts for the second Boston run.
Boston starter Rick Porcello was having his way with the Toronto hitters until the top of the fourth when Guerrero put a charge into the mostly staid atmosphere.
The Toronto third baseman walloped a 2-1 fastball leading off the inning and sent it cruising over the wall in centre field for his first home run before the home town fans that pared Boston’s lead to 2-1.
Overall, it was the 20-year-old’s fifth home run of the season, all coming in his last eight games.
Guerrero also singled in the sixth inning during a 2-for-6 night at the plate and defensively made a nice diving grab of a Sandy Leon bunt attempt in the seventh.
The Red Sox pushed another run across in the seventh after the Red Sox loaded the bases against Toronto reliever Daniel Hudson. Moreland then grounded out to second to score the third Boston run.