Shane Victorino hit a sharp grounder to Toronto first baseman Josh Thole that was misplayed with two runners aboard in the bottom of the ninth Sunday, lifting the Boston Red Sox to a gritty 5-4 win over Toronto. The victory marked the third win in the four game series against the Blue Jays for Boston and placed the Red Sox as the first American League team to register 50 victories on the season. In improving to 50-34, Boston also improved to 8-5 against the Jays in head-to-head competition this season and moved their home record to 28-16 on the year and 23-15 overall against A.L. East division competition.
But it wasn’t easy. Neither Boston starter Ryan Dempster nor Toronto starter Mark Buehrle figured in the decision by the time the game got to the ninth inning.
The Red Sox jumped out early, sending eight men to the plate in putting a trifecta up on the scoreboard to lead 3-0. Ryan Lavarnway lifted a ground rule double down the right field foul line that chased home both Mike Napoli and Daniel Nava, who opened the inning with back-to-back singles. One out later, reserve infielder Brandon Snyder, getting the start at third, cracked an RBI double off the bottom of the left-center wall to score Lavarnway.
Toronto countered with a pair of runs in the top of the fourth when Edwin Encarnacion and Rajai Davis reached Dempster for singles. Colby Rasmus plated one run with the Blue Jays’ third hit of the inning and Davis came home on a fielder’s choice RBI off the bat off Macier Iszturis to make the score 3-2 Boston.
The Bosox got a run back in the bottom of the fifth when Ellsbury started the inning with a single to extend his current hitting streak to 11 games, and came home on a Wall Ball RBI double off The Monster by Jhonny Gomes to make it 4-2 Boston.
Dempster ran into a world of trouble in the top of the sixth, loading the bases with a walk to Josh Thole and consecutive singles by Davis and Rasmus with no outs. He enticed J.P. Arencibia to pop out to Iglesias at short, then was pulled in favor of lefty reliever Craig Breslow. Breslow helped extinguish the fire by getting Macier Izturis to pop out to short, then struck out pinch hitter Emilio Benafacio to douse the Toronto uprising and preserve Dempster’s 4-2 lead.
While Breslow was a magician in the sixth, he jammed himself up first thing in the seventh by giving up a lead-off home run to Jose Reyes that helped the Blue Jays close the gap to 4-3 Boston. Red Sox manager John Farrell quickly went back to the bullpen in favor of Alex Wilson who gave up a single to Bautista, then got Encarnacion to pop out to Pedroia down the right field line for one out. Lefty Andrew Miller came on and was lights out, dispatching both Josh Thole and Rajai Davis on no-nonsense strike outs to preserve the Boston advantage at 4-3.
Miller completed one-and-two-thirds of sterling relief to set up newly named Boston closer Koji Uehara for his fourth save in five days, but Uehara’s pixie dust wore off in the top of the ninth when he gave up Juan Bautista’s 19th home run of the year, allowing Toronto to tie the score at 4-4.
In Boston’s half of the ninth, Toronto’s Juan Perez got Iglesias to begin the inning with a ground out to second, but then surrendered a single to Snyder and walked Ellsbury to give Boston two men on base with one out. The Blue Jays brought in closer Casey Janssen, looking for a potential double play ground ball, but the Baseball Gods were with Boston on this Sunday as Victorino worked the count to 2-2 against Janssen before sending a hot grounder toward first that Thole could not handle. Reserve Jon Diaz, pinch-running for Snyder, scampered home and the Red Sox were 5-4 walk off winners.
Uehara blew his first save but collected the win with the Boston rally. Despite another quality start, Dempster did not factor in the decision and remained at 5-8 on the season despite a pretty good line of IP 5 1/3 R 2 ER 2 BB 3 H 7 n K 2 on 96 pitches. Perez took the loss for Toronto, getting Buehrle off the hook for the decision.
The Red Sox rally meant Boston would maintain at least a two-and-a-half game lead over the Baltimore Orioles, scheduled to take on the Yankees in a Sunday night contest.
Boston’s Designated Hitter David Ortiz got a breather from the lineup Sunday despite his current seven game hitting streak. Big Papi will actually get an extended rest thanks to Monday’s off day. The respite also gives Stephen Drew’s tender hammy an extra day’s rest before the Red Sox return to action Tuesday, July 2. Boston begins the month by playing host to San Diego for three games of Inter-League play, the last home games for the Bosox prior to the All Star break. Following the Padres series, Boston embarks on a 10-game West Coast trip for a three game set against the Angels, four against the Mariners and finishing up with three games against Oakland leading into the All-Star break which runs from July 15 until regular season play resumes on July 19. The Evil Empire comes to town when the Yankees visit Fenway July 19-20 & 21st.
Clay Buchholz, still recuperating from a problematic neck and collar bone issue, was scheduled to throw from 75-feet Sunday. The Red Sox have designated Clayton Mortensen for assignment with the activation and roster spot call-up of third-baseman/utility infielder Jon Diaz. Diaz, 28, made his Major League debut for the Red Sox Saturday night and went hitless in three at bats, although he did scorch a sinking line-drive that was speared by a flat, all out dive by Toronto center-fielder Colby Rasmus that certainly deserved a spot on Web Gems.
Both the Red Sox and rival Yankees have maintained their interest in Phillies third-baseman/utility man Michael Young. Boston is looking for a possible second half fix with Diaz called up and Will Middlebrooks sent down to Pawtucket. The Yankees maintain a void at third with the injury absence of Alex Rodriguez compounded by last week’s probable season-ending back surgery to Kevin Youkalis. Given the wobbly health of their starting rotation and the stress of losing Joel Hanrahhan for the season couple with the shaky performance of Andrew Bailey, Boston may also be in the July trade deadline market for another starter and/or relief arm.
- Thole’s error gives Red Sox 5-4 win over Blue Jays (kansascity.com)
- Red Sox escape Blue Jays on crucial error in ninth (cbssports.com)