BOSTON -- This was the type of game the Blue Jays won during their 11-game winning streak earlier in the month.
Down three runs early to a Boston team that had won two of the first three games of the series, Toronto battled back into contention, and when Jose Bautista blasted a solo shot in the top of the ninth inning, the game was tied.
But baseball is a game of breaks, and though they all seemed to go Toronto's way when they were the hottest team in baseball, Sunday's contest was a reminder that the streak is firmly in the rear-view mirror.
With runners on first and second in the bottom of the ninth and Juan Perez on the mound, Shane Victorino hit what should have been a routine ground ball to first base.
But Josh Thole misplayed the ball and it scooted into right field, allowing pinch-runner Jonathan Diaz to score and the Red Sox to walk off with a 5-4 victory at Fenway Park.
"Just didn't catch it. I need to catch the ball. That's the bottom line," Thole said. "It [stinks], but I just got to catch the ball and make an out."
Thole, normally a catcher, entered the game in the third inning as a replacement for starter Adam Lind, who left with back tightness.
The defeat was the third in a four-game series against the Red Sox, and Toronto's fifth loss in seven games.
"I thought it was an important game for us to win," manager John Gibbons said.
After being within five games out of first place in the American League East after their winning streak, the Blue Jays leave Boston with a 40-41 record, 8 1/2 games behind the first-place Red Sox.
"You take three of four versus anyone, particularly over the last month with the way Toronto has played," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "This was a good series win for us today."
Mark Buehrle, who threw six innings of four-run baseball on Sunday, said the bad stretch is part of the ups and downs of a long season.
"Even in Tampa, I think you've seen games we were playing in that stretch we were winning, guys were hitting the ball and it goes right to our guy or a guy makes a diving play," Buehrle said. "The last couple games, it seems like we're putting the ball in play and they're making diving plays."
It's not as if Blue Jays didn't have their chances to salvage a series split.
Bautista's blast gave life to the Toronto dugout and tied the game in the top of the ninth, but Toronto couldn't keep it tied in the bottom half.
Luis Perez retired Jose Iglesias to start the frame, but Brandon Snyder followed with a single and Jacoby Ellsbury walked. That brought up Victorino, who slapped the fateful grounder toward Thole.
The Blue Jays had 11 hits on Sunday, and Buehrle's outing was probably better than his numbers indicated, but the Blue Jays were unable to capitalize on opportunities at the plate and in the field.
The best of those opportunities came in the top of the sixth, when Toronto, trailing 4-2, loaded the bases with nobody out against Boston starter Ryan Dempster. Thole walked to start the inning and Rajai Davis and Colby Rasmus followed with singles. But J.P. Arencibia and Maicer Izturis both popped out to shortstop and Emilio Bonifacio struck out swinging to end the threat.
"We just didn't get anything out of it," Gibbons said. "That's basically it."
A key defensive lapse earlier in the game also cost the Blue Jays.
With runners on first and second in the second inning, Ryan Lavarnway hit what looked to be a routine fly ball. Lind, Bautista and Munenori Kawasaki, making his debut at second base, ran toward it, but the ball fell between them all in shallow right field before bouncing into the seats for a ground-rule double.
Mike Napoli scored on the play, and after Iglesias struck out swinging, Snyder doubled off the Green Monster to drive in two more runs and give Boston a 3-0 lead.
Buehrle was otherwise effective against a Red Sox lineup that has scored the most runs in baseball.
In his six innings of work, he struck out four and walked one.
"I made some pitches and they found holes," Buehrle said. "That's why it's frustrating."
Toronto scored two runs in the top of the fourth. Rasmus singled home Edwin Encarnacion on a line drive to right field for the first run. After Arencibia walked, Izturis grounded into what looked like an inning-ending double play, but Izturis beat out the throw, allowing Davis, who singled and stole third earlier in the inning, to score.
Jose Reyes homered to lead off the seventh inning, making the score 4-3.
Michael Periatt is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.