The Red Sox drew one step closer to locking up home field advantage throughout the playoffs with a 5-2 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays Sunday afternoon in Fenway Park.
The last regular season game of the year for Fenway would provide Felix Doubront with his first start since September 6th, and if the rest didn't prove a perfect solution to all of his problems, it certainly didn't hurt. Like Clay Buchholz before him, Doubront started off his outing with a strike out of Jose Reyes. And like Clay Buchholz before him, Doubront did not establish that as a trend for the night. He would pick up his only other strikeout of the night to end the second inning, but only after a two-out walk and pair of singles pushed the opening run of the game across the plate.
While Doubront wasn't striking guys out, and only got six swing-and-misses on the day, he wasn't struggling to put batters away like we've seen in the past. Even relying almost exclusively on his various fastball variations, Doubront managed to get the Jays to pound the ball into the ground over and over. Never hitting so much as 20 pitches in an inning, even falling behind better than half the batters he faced, Doubront's struggles were mostly limited to that second inning. An ugly mistake of a changeup in the fifth cost him a second run as Kevin Pillar found the Monster seats, but on the whole it wasn't a bad day of work for the returning southpaw.
Boston's offense was not exactly dominant in support of Doubront's effort, but one explosive inning proved enough to keep them in a relatively comfortable lead for most of the game. Immediately after Doubront had surrendered his first run in the top of the second, the Red Sox would mount a shockingly quick rally. WIth two outs and one down, R.A. Dickey fell behind Stephen Drew 2-0 before giving up a line drive single. He would start better against Ryan Lavarnway with two strikes, but a knuckleball which really didn't knuckle gave Lavarnway a target to hit low-and-away, and he pulled it off, tying the game at one-one with a single of his own.
The big swing, though, would come from an unlikely source: Jackie Bradley Jr. Once again it was a straight knuckleball that cost Dickey, but this time the ball stayed up and over the heart of the plate to boot. Taking the "if it's high, let it fly" mantra to heart, Bradley put a fairly level swing on the ball, and got more than enough underneath it to dump Dickey's knuckleball a few rows deep past the bullpens in right for a three-run shot. David Ortiz added on with his 29th homer of the season on the first pitch of the sixth inning, but with Franklin Morales surviving a sketchy eighth and Koji Uehara recording a perfect ninth, there was no need for the extra insurance.
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