The Red Sox clinched the American League East a couple days back and, having done that, made the rest of their wins and losses in the regular season seem fairly unimportant. For all that it became easy to shrug off losses, though, after that three-game sweep in New York, nobody really wanted to be heading into the postseason without picking up another win or two.
So what better way to do that then knock off a team still playing for their October lives, particularly when that team just happens to be the Blue Jays? No better way, I’d say.
While the Sox had their top arm on the mound, it wasn’t really Rick Porcello who lifted them to victory. Don’t get me wrong, he did fine against a tough team, starting on a wet night after a 40-minute delay. But this won’t be one of those starts he or the fans remember down the line. He had to work around multiple baserunners in the first and third during a sketchy beginning, and finished rather worse, with Jose Bautista clearing out a fastball in his wheelhouse for a two-run shot to cap off a three-run fifth inning. Six innings and three earned against a good team isn’t bad, it’s just not quite what we’ve come to expect from Porcello this season.
At the time, Bautista’s bomb put the Jays ahead 3-1, as the Red Sox had been struggling to even advance what runners they picked up after taking a 1-0 lead in the first, with David Ortiz flipping a single into left field to score Brock Holt with two outs. Xander Bogaerts gave them a big chance to pull within a run in the sixth, reaching third with one down, but Jackie Bradley Jr. and Sandy Leon struck out to end the inning.
It would be the seventh, with the Jays trying to get a second inning out of Joe Biagini, where Boston really got rolling. Andrew Benintendi would prove the spark and once again demand a higher spot in the lineup by leading off the frame with a double. He would score on a bit of a strange play, with the ball actually getting stuck under the tarp after an errant throw to first from Russell Martin and the umpires deciding Benintendi would have scored.
Any complaints the Jays might have had about that decision couldn’t last too long. After a ground out from Brock Holt, Mookie Betts singled up the middle to bring Dustin Pedroia in to score, tying the game and bringing David Ortiz to the plate. Even after an 0-for-10 slump in New York, I don’t think anyone doubted that Papi would come through in his final regular season series. But just in case even that RBI single in the first wasn’t convincing enough, Ortiz ripped an inside fastball down the line and well into the seats in right. Another clutch homer in Fenway Park, because what else would you expect from the man?
It wasn’t a comfortable night for the bullpen with Boston’s late lead. Brad Ziegler had to deal with a couple two-out baserunners just to keep the Sox within two runs before their rally, and Koji Uehara walked another batter—two in two innings for the man is virtually unheard of—and was giving up some loud contact besides before escaping the inning. The spotlight, though, was clearly on Craig Kimbrel, and he...didn’t do great. Another two walks came from the closer who seems to be struggling to find the zone with startling regularity these last few games. But after giving up those free passes, Kimbrel went 1-2-3 to Dioner Navarro for the game-ending strikeout, getting the Sox back in the win column and keeping them ahead of Cleveland with two games to go.