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Betts becomes first player to hit for cycle in 2018

AP

Mookie Betts has circled a few potential cycles in his young career, not surprising considering his rare combination of power and speed.

Boston’s AL MVP contender finally knocked that milestone off his list with his final swing Thursday night.

Betts homered in the ninth inning to complete his first career cycle during the Toronto Blue Jays’ 8-5 win over the Red Sox.

Betts is the 21st Red Sox player to hit for the cycle and the first in the major leagues this season. He singled and scored in the first inning, tripled in the second and doubled in the fourth against starter Ryan Borucki. After walking in the sixth, Betts hit a one-out drive off Ken Giles in the ninth for his 27th homer of the season.

Betts has come up one leg short of the cycle eight times in his career, including twice needing a home run.

“I’ve had some opportunities before and to finally succeed is a good feeling,” said Betts, who has reached base in 25 of his past 42 plate appearances against Toronto.

The 25-year-old Betts is the first Boston player to hit for the cycle since Brock Holt in 2015. Betts, Holt and Leon Culberson in 1943 are the only Red Sox to cycle from the leadoff spot.

The AL MVP candidate was 4 for 4 to raise his major league-best average to .347 with 59 RBIs and a 1.102 OPS. He celebrated his no-doubt homer by lifting a fist and smiling at Boston’s dugout.

“You expect greatness with him every night,” manager Alex Cora said. “That was cool to see.”

Boston (81-35) lost for the first time in seven games but still has the best record in baseball.

Randal Grichuk hit a tiebreaking two-run homer in the fifth inning and Teoscar Hernandez added a solo shot to help Toronto avoid a three-game sweep.

Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez hit his major league-leading 35th home run, a solo drive in the fifth.

Boston starter Rick Porcello (14-5) allowed seven runs and six hits in four innings. Porcello lost for the first time since a July 13 home defeat to the Blue Jays, a game in which he allowed a season-worst eight earned runs.

“We’ve got to take a look at that,” Cora said. “That’s the second one in a row against them. Breaking balls, fastballs, changeups, they were on him. Location wasn’t great, we saw it from the get go, but still. They put some good at-bats against him and that’s the second game in a row they’ve done that.”

The right-hander is 1-2 with a 9.15 ERA in four starts against Toronto this season.

“I don’t know what it is about their lineup,” Porcello said. “They do a nice job against me. They make me get into the strike zone, they draw some walks, and then they do damage. I’ve got to figure something out against these guys to overcome that.”

Borucki (2-2) allowed four runs and a career-worst nine hits in five innings but won his second straight start.

“He really battled,” manager John Gibbons said. “There aren’t a lot of outs in that lineup and they are hot right now.”

Borucki pitched eight shutout innings to beat the Mariners for his first major league win in his previous outing.

Yankees 7, Rangers 3

In New York, Giancarlo Stanton hit the hardest homer ever measured by MLB’s Statcast system, Neil Walker hit two more home runs and the Yankees trounced Texas.

Stanton’s 28th homer was measured at 196 kph, the fastest long ball tracked by Statcast since the system was introduced in 2015. Miguel Andujar and Aaron Hicks also went deep, helping New York win its fourth straight since a five-game skid that included a four-game sweep at AL East-leading Boston.

J.A. Happ (12-6) pitched six effective innings in his return from hand, foot and mouth disease. Happ was acquired from Toronto last month and has won both his starts with New York. He allowed three runs, four hits, a walk and struck out nine.

Rookie Ariel Jurado (2-2) got Stanton to hit into a double play in the first inning, then intentionally walked Didi Gregorius before Hicks homered to make it 2-0.

All-Star closer Aroldis Chapman walked two in the ninth before getting a fielder’s choice from pinch hitter Isiah Kiner-Falefa and striking out leadoff hitter Choo Shin-soo and Rougned Odor.

Dodgers 8, Rockies 5

In Denver, Chris Taylor and Brian Dozier homered off closer Wade Davis in the ninth inning and Los Angeles exploited Colorado’s shaky bullpen to beat the Rockies.

Pirates 10, Giants 5

In San Francisco, Ivan Nova allowed two runs in six innings, David Freese hit his 100th career home run and Pittsburgh doubled up the Giants.

Mariners 8, Astros 6

In Houston, Mitch Haniger homered while Seattle jumped on Justin Verlander for six runs in two innings, and the Mariners beat the Astros.

Haniger, Denard Span and Jean Segura combined for 10 hits and seven RBIs with a homer each off Verlander. Verlander (11-7) was ejected for arguing a balk call after setting a season high for runs allowed and missing a chance for his 200th career victory.

Indians 5, Twins 4

In Cleveland, Michael Brantley’s ninth-inning single gave the Indians their second straight walk-off victory over Minnesota.

Padres 8, Brewers 4

In Milwaukee, Hunter Renfroe hit a go-ahead grand slam in the ninth inning, his fourth straight game with a home run, and San Diego rallied to beat the Brewers.

Nationals 6, Braves 3

In Washington, Gio Gonzalez pitched seven strong innings for his first victory since May 28 to help the Nationals split a four-game series with Atlanta.

Rays 5, Orioles 4

In St. Petersburg, Florida, Jake Bauers drove in two of his three runs with a go-ahead two-run single in the seventh inning and Tampa Bay beat the Orioles.