Red Sox starter Brayan Bello pitches during Wednesday’s 7-3 win over the Blue Jays in Toronto. Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP

TORONTO — Brayan Bello’s outing Wednesday night at Rogers Centre wasn’t perfect, but it still represented what the Red Sox feel was a step in their direction for their young righty.

Bello escaped constant traffic throughout the first five innings of his start to give the Sox six innings in a 7-3 win, having allowed just two runs despite allowing seven hits, issuing two walks and hitting two batters. Against him, the Blue Jays were 1 for 11 with runners in scoring position and left eight on base. Bello’s escapes allowed him to post his first quality start since May 22 and served as a bright spot after he had logged a 7.47 ERA in his first three June starts. The key? Throwing strikes.

Despite the four walks, Bello threw 60 of his 88 pitches (68.2%) for strikes, up significantly from his 61.7% strike rate from his first three starts of the month. Pitching coach Andrew Bailey arrived with the mantra of having his pitchers throw their nasty stuff in the zone, and Bello, more than any other starter on the staff, has had trouble executing. But Wednesday was a bit different.

“When you’ve got 97-98 (mph) with movement, a good change-up and a good slider, we want our guys to keep pounding the strike zone and he did,” said Manager Alex Cora. “Today, at one point I looked up (at the scoreboard) and was like, ‘This is impressive.’ They worked hard this week just controlling the counts and pounding the strike zone and he executed the plan.”

Bello’s outing didn’t come without his battles. He stranded two runners in the first with three straight outs, then two more in the second after a double and hit-by-pitch. With a 1-0 lead in the third, he allowed a single and a walk to put someone in scoring position before getting out of it with back-to-back strikeouts. And in the fourth, he performed perhaps his greatest escape.

With the Sox up 2-0 after Enmanuel Valdez homered, Bello allowed three straight singles to start the fourth, including a run-scoring hit by Kevin Kiermaier, then walked Spencer Horwitz to load the bases with no outs. Bello then got Justin Turner to ground into a double play, happily trading the tying run for two outs. He lucked out when Vlad Guerrero Jr. shot a 110.1 mph missile into the glove of center fielder Romy González to end the inning.


The double play was the highlight of Bello’s night.

“My goal there was to try to get two outs,” he said through translator Carlos Villoria Benítez. “Luckily, it happened.”

Bello allowed a two-out double to George Springer in the fifth but didn’t let him score. Finally, in the sixth, he had a 1-2-3 inning to punctuate his longest outing in nearly a month.

“When I got to that inning, I wanted to get out of it as soon as possible to see if I could go out there again,” Bello said. “The key was to get ahead of the hitters, to try to be aggressive and attack the zone. That was the gameplan we had before the game and I was able to execute that.”

With Garrett Whitlock and Lucas Giolito out for the season after undergoing elbow surgery, little on the way from the upper minors and the fifth spot in question after Cooper Criswell was optioned to the minors earlier in the week, the Red Sox need their four regular starters to perform at a high level. Tanner Houck has been elite all year but Kutter Crawford and Nick Pivetta have been up and down and Bello, who might have the most talent in the group, has been a disappointment. For the Sox to stay in contention, they’ll need the 25-year-old to improve.

“That’s what he needs to do, pound the strike zone and forget about the results,” Cora said. “Just stay with the process. He did great.”


Bello’s performance helped the Red Sox finish off a sweep of the Blue Jays and get to five games above .500 at 40-35. Boston has won eight of nine and kept its foot on the pedal after two big series wins over the Phillies and Yankees at home last week.

“I’m very proud of the guys to beat the Phillies and the Yankees and get greedy, come here and play three great games,” Cora said. “That was fun to watch.

“We talked about it as a group when we got here. We talked for two minutes. Whatever we did last week, it was last week. We’ve got Toronto, who’s a good team … We played a good series. It was a really good series.”

Red Sox pitcher Chris Martin throws to first base as he trips on the mound fielding a ground ball against the Blue Jays in the ninth inning in Toronto on Wednesday. Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP

CHRIS MARTIN may find out later this week if you can receive a Web Gem for a defensive play that didn’t involve your glove.

It was a memorable return to the mound Wednesday for Martin, who pitched the ninth inning of Boston’s 7-3 win over the Blue Jays one day after coming off the injured list, where he spent a couple weeks dealing with anxiety-related symptoms. With a man on first and one out in a four-run game, Vlad Guerrero Jr. hit a high chopper back in Martin’s direction, forcing the 6-foot-8 righty to take a step back, then field the ball barehanded as he fell backwards, hitting his head on the turf behind the mound. He then one-hopped the ball to first baseman Dom Smith for the out.

It was yet another instance of Martin, who has dodged a couple of comebackers so far this season, putting his body on the line on the mound.

“I felt like maybe I got in a car wreck,” Martin said. “I’d like to stay on my feet a couple games in a row. Would be nice. But got the out and it was a good win. I was kinda off-balance and saw it go up. Cleat was stuck so I did everything I thought I could do to get the out. Wanted to get that win so needed to make that play … Worth it for the out.”

Cora and a team trainer came out to briefly check on Martin, who was laughing on the mound after the play. He then got Daulton Varsho to fly out to left to end the game and secure a three-game sweep.

The flyout finished off a scoreless, 13-pitch inning for Martin, who worked around a leadoff single by Spencer Horwitz to finish the game in a non-save situation.

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