TORONTO -- Prior to Friday's series opener with the Red Sox, Blue Jays manager John Farrell said the league will start picking up on Henderson Alvarez's tendencies, as further information becomes available on him the more he pitches.
It looks like the Red Sox did a good job scouting the young right-hander.
Alvarez had a rough performance for the third consecutive outing, while Toronto's bats were limited in a 7-2 loss to the Red Sox in front of 29,678 fans at Rogers Centre.
"I tried to get ahead in the counts," Alvarez said through interpreter Arturo Marcano. "I thought I did it better than the last two times."
Alvarez has lost three straight decisions, allowing at least four runs in each outing -- he has only one other start where he has surrendered more than three runs. As batters start to pick up on his tendencies, like David Ortiz did to get things going, Alvarez knows he has to do the same.
"I'm watching more videos than last year," Alvarez said. "I'm doing more research on batters to see how I can pitch to them, probably a lot more than what I did last year."
The 22-year-old, who has pounded the strike zone all season and entered the start throwing his fastball the sixth most in the American League, paid the price for doing both of those things far too often on Friday.
It began in the second inning, when Alvarez faced Ortiz, who was leading off.
Alvarez threw Ortiz nine consecutive fastballs to start the at-bat, the last four of which were fouled off, before coming back with another on the 10th pitch that Ortiz hit the other way for his 13th homer of the season. It was Ortiz's 391st career home run, which moved him into 54th place alone on the all-time list, and put Boston ahead, 1-0.
Ortiz entered the game hitting fastballs at a .322 clip against right-handers, compared to sliders, against which he was hitting .244.
"I felt Ortiz was a little bit behind with his swing, so that's why I kept throwing the fastball," said Alvarez, who lasted 6 1/3 innings, allowing four runs on eight hits while striking out two. "I thought that if I threw a changeup, he would hit it to right field."
Farrell had no problem with Alvarez going with the fastball -- which he threw 66 times out of 99 pitches.
"Early in the game, he was trying to keep the ball in tight on him and, yeah, a number of foul balls," Farrell explained. "He kept challenging him with his best stuff, and in a 0-0 game you want the opposition to force their way on. Certainly Ortiz is swinging the bat well, and he got the ball out over the plate and he was able to extend and hit the ball out of the ballpark."
In the third inning, Boston tacked on another run on an RBI single to left by Adrian Gonzalez, also off an Alvarez fastball, to take a 2-0 lead. Toronto responded in the bottom half of the frame, as Yunel Escobar drove an 0-1 offering from Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz to left-center field for his third homer of the year, which cut Boston's lead to 2-1.
Before Boston blew the game open, Alvarez and the Blue Jays had a scare in the fifth. Red Sox shortstop Mike Aviles, who led off the inning, hit a comebacker off Alvarez's left shin, which dropped him to the turf.
Alvarez looked to be in serious discomfort, but after being tended to by Toronto's training staff, he stayed in the game. He showed off a welt on his leg postgame, but appeared to be fine and is expected to make his next start.
The youngster surrendered another run in the sixth before the Red Sox erupted for four runs on five hits in the seventh to make it a 7-1 game. Luis Perez, who relieved Alvarez with one out in the inning, was charged with three of the runs.
Toronto cut the lead to 7-2 in the seventh off an opposite-field homer by David Cooper, his first of the season.
Buchholz, who entered the game with a 7.19 ERA, turned in his best performance of the season, lasting a season-high eight innings, while striking out a season-high seven.
The Blue Jays wasted opportunities to get to Buchholz, in particular the first and fifth innings. The Blue Jays put runners on first and second with none out in each frame before Buchholz battled back to thwart the rallies with inning-ending double plays.
Farrell, who is familiar with Buchholz from their time together in Boston, was impressed with his outing.
"Four pitches for strikes, good stuff," Farrell said. "After about the third inning, he got into a much better rhythm and groove. He was throwing his two-seamer front door to lefties to lock some guys up. He was able to move the ball off the bat head with his cutter, and then he would drop down occasionally with his curveball, which is something we haven't seen from him, to get a couple of called strike threes. He kept the ball down in the strike zone."
Buchholz, meanwhile, has strung together two consecutive quality starts and may be putting a rocky start to the season behind him.
"It felt good," Buchholz said. "I've been building up to that the last three, four times out. I just hadn't had the inning where I could shut them down without scoring three or four runs in that one inning. It sort of came together and was able to get some weak contact in some big situations, get a couple of double plays in some big situations, and the guys went out there and hit and put up some runs, and I was able to work with it tonight."
Colby Rasmus, who singled off Buchholz in the fourth, extended his season-high hit streak to eight games.
Toronto's three-game win streak was snapped with the loss.
Chris Toman is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.