- Associated Press - Saturday, April 9, 2016

TORONTO (AP) - It’s been a tough few days for the Toronto bullpen.

Josh Donaldson hit a grand slam, but the Blue Jays blew a third consecutive save opportunity in an 8-7 loss to the Boston Red Sox in their home opener Friday night.

Blue Jays manager John Gibbons insisted he wasn’t worried about the rocky start by his relief corps.

“We really anticipate that’s going to be one of our strengths,” Gibbons said. “It just hasn’t happened yet.”

Donaldson echoed his manager’s confidence in the beleaguered bullpen.

“I’m not really concerned at all about those guys,” Donaldson said. “I feel like they’re going to do a good job.”

Toronto lost its fifth straight home opener, extending the longest slump in team history.

Brock Holt hit his first career grand slam and drove in a career-high five runs for Boston, and David Ortiz had two RBIs.

Matt Barnes (1-0) pitched one perfect inning and Craig Kimbrel got his first save.

Toronto’s Marcus Stroman left after Xander Bogaerts’ double and walks to Ortiz and Travis Shaw loaded the bases in the sixth. Jesse Chavez came on to face Holt, who hooked the second pitch over the wall in the right field corner.

The grand slam was the second home run of the season for Holt, who hit two in 129 games last year. His career high is four, set in 2014.

Holt also had a two-run blast in Wednesday’s 7-6 loss at Cleveland and connected in consecutive games for the first time.

“He’s on pace for about 60 homers right now, maybe more than that,” teammate Travis Shaw joked. “He’s got a little bit more juice than people think.”

After Dustin Pedroia and Bogaerts hit back-to-back singles off Drew Storen (0-1) in the seventh, Brett Cecil came on and gave up a tying single to Ortiz, then a go-ahead single to Hanley Ramirez.

Toronto chased Red Sox right-hander Joe Kelly with a six-run fourth, an inning that began with four straight singles. The next batter, Kevin Pillar, plated a run when he was hit on the brim of his helmet. Pillar was knocked down but immediately jumped up and remained in the game.

“I heard it but I didn’t really feel much,” Pillar said. “I got pretty lucky.”

Donaldson drilled Kelly’s next pitch into the left field bullpen for his third home run and second career grand slam, the first ever by a Blue Jays batter in 40 Toronto home openers.

Donaldson started as the designated hitter after leaving with a strained right calf in the seventh inning of Wednesday’s 5-3 loss at Tampa Bay. Darwin Barney was at third base.


Blue Jays C Russell Martin took over at third base in the ninth after Barney was removed for a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the eighth. Bogaerts grounded to third on the first pitch of the inning and Martin threw him out.


Before the game, Donaldson received his 2015 AL MVP award from former Blue Jays slugger George Bell, the 1987 AL MVP and the first Toronto player to win the trophy. Jose Bautista and Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar revealed logos on the center field wall honoring the 2015 AL East Champions and Toronto’s 40th season, respectively. Bautista then went behind the plate to receive the ceremonial first pitch from former Blue Jays president Paul Beeston.


Blue Jays: LHP Franklin Morales felt weakness in his shoulder while warming up in the sixth and was unable to come into the game. Morales will be re-evaluated Saturday. … RHP Marco Estrada (back) is expected to come off the disabled list to start Sunday’s series finale.


Red Sox RHP Rick Porcello makes his season debut against Blue Jays RHP R.A. Dickey (1-0, 5.40) on Saturday. Porcello had a 6.45 ERA in four starts against Toronto in 2015 and has a 5.29 ERA against the Blue Jays in 12 career games. Dickey was winless in six starts against the Red Sox in 2015.

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