Tyler O’Neill hits two homers in return to Canada, Red Sox beat Blue Jays 7-3

Tyler O’Neill had played on his home country’s soil only once before. The Canadian-born outfielder came to Toronto with the St. Louis Cardinals in July of 2022, and over two games he went hitless in 10 trips up to the plate.

His next visit has gotten off to a much better start.

O’Neill hit two home runs in Monday night’s 7-3 win over the Blue Jays, leading the charge as the Red Sox blasted four home runs as a team.

He finished 2 for 4 with a walk and the two homers, and in the process O’Neill became just the fifth visiting Canadian player to record a multi-homer game in Toronto, and the first since Michael Saunders in 2013, according to Baseball Reference.

“Listening to the Canadian anthem, man, there’s something about it,” O’Neill told NESN’s Jahmai Webster following the game. “It fired me up a little bit to hear that and I always enjoy being in Toronto.”

O’Neill kicked off the scoring barrage with a solo home run in the top of the first, and Rafael Devers immediately followed with one of his own. In the process they became the first Red Sox players to go back-to-back since O’Neill and Triston Casas against the Angels on April 14.

The Blue Jays got a run back in the bottom of the second on an Isiah Kiner-Falefa sacrifice fly to make it 2-1, but after that the Red Sox got right back to work. Ceddanne Rafaela led off the top of the third with a solo home run of his own, then O’Neill went deep for the second time to make it 4-1. Boston later opened the fourth with three consecutive singles, the last an RBI knock by Bobby Dalbec that stretched the lead to 5-1.

Blue Jays starter Yusei Kikuchi didn’t last much longer after that. The Toronto left-hander only finished four innings, allowing five runs on seven hits, four of which were homers. He did tally seven strikeouts and 15 whiffs, but when the Red Sox got ahold of him, they hit him hard.

Former Red Sox designated hitter Justin Turner, who signed with Toronto over the offseason, got one over on his old team with a solo shot in the sixth. Boston scored twice more in the seventh on a Rob Refsnyder RBI double and a Devers sacrifice fly, and Toronto’s Davis Schneider rounded out the scoring with a solo homer in the seventh, making it 7-3.

Between the two teams, all six home runs hit in the game were solo shots.

Toronto’s two homers were among the only blemishes for Red Sox starter Nick Pivetta, also a native Canadian, who went seven innings and threw a season-high 109 pitches to earn the win. Pivetta allowed three runs on nine hits, a walk and four strikeouts to post his fourth quality start of the season.

After hovering around .500 for more than a month, the Red Sox have finally broken through with five wins in their last six games. They’re now 38-35 on the season, marking the first time Boston has been at least three games over .500 since May 5. The offense has also tallied at least seven runs in each of the last three games, and with the win Boston has a 2.5 game lead over Toronto for third in the AL East.

The Red Sox will look to clinch their third straight series victory Tuesday. Tanner Houck (7-5, 2.08) is in line to face Toronto’s Chris Bassitt (6-6, 3.56), with first pitch scheduled for 7:07 p.m.

Hamilton leaves game

David Hamilton was removed from the game in the fourth inning, and shortly afterwards the Red Sox announced he was dealing with left side discomfort. Manager Alex Cora said postgame that Hamilton felt sore pregame and the discomfort grew worse after he swung during his first at bat.

“We’ll see how he comes tomorrow,” Cora said. “I think we were proactive so hopefully not an IL stint, but we’ll know more tomorrow.”

The rookie shortstop has become a difference-maker over the past month, and since May 15 he’s batted .322 with an .891 OPS and 14 stolen bases in 29 games while playing plus defense.

Martin expected back

Cora told reporters prior to Monday’s game that right-hander Chris Martin will likely be activated from the 15-day injured list ahead of Tuesday’s game. Martin has been battling anxiety and last pitched for the Red Sox on May 30, but is now in a much better place and threw a scoreless inning of relief in his rehab outing for Worcester on Sunday.

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