BOSTON -- Aaron Laffey gave the Blue Jays everything they could have asked for, but the same couldn't be said of the bullpen on Tuesday night.
Laffey, who was making his first start at the big league level in almost two years, was nearly flawless on the mound. He departed with a one-run lead after six scoreless innings. In the end, it wasn't enough.
Relievers Jason Frasor, Luis Perez and David Pauley allowed five runs as the Blue Jays let one slip away in a disheartening 5-1 loss to the Red Sox at Fenway Park.
"Frasor comes in, gets the first couple of outs and as their left-handers can do, they stay inside the ball, they use that wall to their advantage," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said. "[Jarrod] Saltalamacchia hits a solo home run, and then we look to match up from there.
"In that seventh inning with two outs, we've got three guys that were ahead in the count, and that putaway pitch was elusive, and they were able to bunch the three runs together."
Frasor surrendered the homer to Saltalamacchia on a 1-0 pitch to erase Laffey's efforts, but that was only the beginning of Boston's offensive attack.
Left-hander Luis Perez was brought into the game and promptly gave up a double down the right-field line to Ryan Kalish. Farrell then opted to use right-hander David Pauley, who also couldn't get the job done as he hit one batter and walked another before serving up the go-ahead two-run single to Dustin Pedroia with the bases loaded.
Pauley's outing got worse in the eighth inning. He allowed a pair of doubles to David Ortiz and Adrian Gonzalez en route to an additional two runs. Pauley was charged with three runs on four hits, one walk and one hit batter in just one-third of an inning.
"Ground-ball pitcher, in this ballpark," Farrell said of the decision to go with Pauley.
"Ground ball up the middle [by Pedroia] in this case, and like I said, we're two outs, get ahead 1-2 to [Mike] Aviles and he works a walk. Then the ground-ball base hit up the middle on an 0-1 pitch -- that's the ballgame right there."
The late-inning collapse overshadowed what was an impressive night on the mound for Laffey. His fastball was consistently clocked at 86 mph, but he was able to command the strike zone and mix in an effective slider to keep Boston hitters off-balance.
The 27-year-old allowed just three hits and two walks in his first Major League start since July 19, 2010. It was a much-needed boost for a Blue Jays starting rotation that is currently without the services of right-handers Brandon Morrow, Kyle Drabek and Drew Hutchison.
"My four-seam fastball location was really good all night," said Laffey, who posted a 4.52 ERA in 11 starts this season with Triple-A Las Vegas. "So right off the bat, that was a strong point for me, so I kind of just stuck with that the whole night.
"I felt good -- felt good warming up, felt good being back into a starting routine. Just wanted to go out and throw as many quality strikes as I could."
Laffey's only real danger occurred in the sixth. He retired the first batter he faced and then walked Pedroia. Ortiz followed with a drive off the base of the Green Monster.
The ball bounced away from left fielder Rajai Davis, who quickly recovered and made a long throw to Jeff Mathis. The catcher went a few feet up the third-base line to make the catch and then applied the tag on Pedroia to record the second out of the inning to keep Toronto's 1-0 lead intact.
Laffey, who had made just four appearances since June 13, didn't come back out for the seventh, because he was on a pitch count. The native of Maryland had his night come to an end after 82 pitches -- 48 of which were strikes. Laffey was in line for his first victory since Sept. 17, 2011, until the bullpen imploded in the seventh.
It was an impressive outing for a pitcher who needed to come through in order to guarantee himself a start this weekend against the Angels. Laffey felt as though he made a statement with the outing.
"All the confidence in the world," Laffey said. "Starting the year in Triple-A for me and having the opportunity to go there and start. I was able to go there and work on things that I had to do and just waiting for that opportunity to get into the rotation.
"Just coming up, helping the team out in the bullpen, I've always done whatever the team needed me to do but getting this opportunity is something I've been waiting for for a couple of years now."
The Blue Jays opened the scoring early against Daisuke Matsuzaka. Third baseman Brett Lawrie led off the game with a double and came around to score on an infield single by cleanup hitter Edwin Encarnacion.
After that, Toronto's offense went cold as Matsuzaka got through the rest of his outing unscathed. Boston's right-hander was charged with just the one run on six hits while striking out five in 5 2/3 innings.
"There were a few that dropped in here and there," Matsuzaka said through an interpreter. "To get out of that inning with just one run was encouraging. It was a positive step, especially considering how my previous starts have gone."
Toronto didn't fare any better against the Red Sox's bullpen and was held under six runs for just the third time in 10 games.