TORONTO -- There was a sense of deja vu during the Blue Jays' home opener Monday night at Rogers Centre.
Toronto finished the night in a similar fashion to the way too many games ended last season -- with a blown save.
New Blue Jays closer Sergio Santos battled control problems on the mound in his home debut and allowed three runs in two-thirds of an inning en route to a 4-2 loss to the Red Sox in front of 48,473 fans.
"It wasn't just one bad pitch, it was a lot of bad pitches," Santos said. "When we play a team like Boston and the way we played the home opener ... we played really good baseball.
"So it's tough, because you feel you let 24 other guys down that you've been working hard with for the last two months."
Santos was acquired during the offseason to put an end to Toronto's well-documented woes in the bullpen. Last year with the White Sox, he recorded 30 saves in 36 opportunities and overpowered hitters in the American League with an upper-90s fastball and deadly slider.
That was the main reason Toronto general manager Alex Anthopoulos opted to send highly regarded pitching prospect Nestor Molina to Chicago for the 28-year-old reliever. Santos, who is under club control until 2017, was expected to rectify a bullpen that tied for the AL in blown saves with 25 in '11.
At least for one day, it didn't work out that way. Santos allowed two hits, three walks and threw a wild pitch during Boston's three-run rally. Santos left to a chorus of boos, and he didn't hold anything against the Rogers Centre crowd despite getting the ice-cold reception on his first official day in the city.
"I'd be booing, too. It wasn't pretty," Santos said. "I have to be ready for tomorrow. I hope it's another save situation and I can get back out there. All I can do is be prepared for the next game and hopefully get the job done."
Santos' problems began with the first batter he faced in the ninth, as an elevated fastball led to a double off the bat of Boston second baseman Dustin Pedroia.
Catcher J.P. Arencibia was then charged with a passed ball, which allowed Pedroia to advance to third base, where he would later score on a sacrifice fly by first baseman Adrian Gonzalez to tie the game.
Santos then battled control problems on the mound, as he issued a pair of walks, an RBI single to Ryan Sweeney and a wild pitch en route to an additional two runs. It was Santos' second blown save in as many chances this season, but there is no closer controversy in Toronto.
Last year, the Blue Jays often went back and forth between Frank Francisco and Jon Rauch in the late-inning role. Manager John Farrell admitted after last season that his biggest regret was not sticking with one consistent option.
Too often he found himself switching roles based on who had the hot hand as opposed to riding the pitchers through the highs and lows of the season. That's not going to happen this season. Santos was acquired to be the closer, and his role isn't going to change anytime soon.
"Sergio remains our closer," Farrell said. "The fastball that [Asdrubal] Cabrera hit in Cleveland was similar to the pitch that Pedroia hit tonight -- fastball that was elevated early in the count that they were able to capitalize on."
Boston's come-from-behind victory overshadowed a strong debut by right-hander Henderson Alvarez. The 21-year-old became the youngest pitcher in franchise history to start a home opener, but he didn't appear remotely intimidated taking the mound in front of the sold-out crowd.
The Venezuela native faced the minimum through the first three innings of the game, and his only mistake occurred in the sixth, when Pedroia sent a 2-2 pitch over the wall in left-center field for his first homer of the season.
Alvarez allowed just the one run on four hits while striking out two and throwing 59 of his 95 pitches for strikes. It was his seventh quality start in 11 career outings and came on the heels of a strong spring that saw him post a 3.00 ERA in five starts.
"Hopefully it sparked us," Pedroia said of his offensive performance. "I'm just trying to put good at-bats together. This early in the season, everyone's got nerves going and everything. It's hard to settle down and find your rhythm and everything. Just trying to have good at-bats. They have some good pitching over there. Their starter was pretty darn good. it worked out for us."
Colby Rasmus got the Blue Jays' offense started with one out in the third inning against left-hander Felix Doubront. Rasmus hit a scorching liner into the gap in right-center field for his first triple of the season and 12th of his career. Toronto's center fielder would later come around to score after a close play at the plate on a little dribbler off the bat of Kelly Johnson.
The Blue Jays added another run later in the inning on an RBI single by Edwin Encarnacion. Those were the only two runs Toronto could muster against Doubront, who allowed four hits and three walks while striking out six in five innings of work.
Toronto has now managed to score just four earned runs against opposing starting pitchers in four games this season. For all the talk that likely will be generated about Santos following Monday's game, it's the offensive production that is of a bigger concern.
But that's also something the Blue Jays expect will work itself out in the near future.
"Right now, we're not in synch all the way around," Farrell said. "Our offense will get on track, but runs are a little bit of a premium right now."