SAN DIEGO -- For the Red Sox, getaway Wednesday started with David Ortiz receiving a surfboard much larger than even Big Papi himself, and ended with a 7-2 victory over the Padres that put Boston in sole possession of first place in the American League East for the first time since July 21.
Crunch time is here, and David Price and his teammates look ready to embrace it. Price rolled in his seven-inning performance and won his sixth straight start, allowing six hits and two runs while walking none and striking out eight. The lefty is 15-8, and has a 2.14 ERA during his winning streak which started Aug. 14. Since that same date, the Sox are 17-9.
"I knew it was going to happen," Price said. "I knew good things were going to happen to me. I just want to keep it going."
Price left San Diego wearing a Kevin Durant Warriors jersey. The Red Sox were told to wear their "favorite" jersey for the long, red-eye flight to Toronto. Hanley Ramirez wore an Ortiz jersey. Ortiz had a Patriots jersey that said "Ortiz" on the back. Dustin Pedroia, a 49ers fan growing up, had a Roger Craig shirt. It was the type of thing winning teams do to bond during a pennant race.
With 23 games left, the Red Sox will stay in their division the rest of the way, starting with what should be an electric three-game showdown at Rogers Centre beginning Friday night.
"That's big at this time of year to be in the position we are in right now," said Price. "That's a testament to what we've all been doing the entire year and it feels good to be in first place in September."
Boston will try to maintain its grip on first place in Toronto. The Blue Jays are a game back after being swept by the Yankees in New York and hold a one-game lead over the Orioles for the top AL Wild Card spot. Baltimore has a one-game lead over Detroit for the second slot, with Houston two games back and New York 2 1/2 out.
Receiving the surfboard as a retirement gift was the most eventful thing thing Ortiz was asked to do all night. For the third day in a row, with no designated hitter, he was on the bench. Several of his teammates were happy to pick up the load, led by Travis Shaw, who had a mammoth two-run homer as part of a 2-for-3, three-RBI night. Ramirez and pinch-hitter Brock Holt also went deep.
Shaw put Boston on the board with a two-run homer to right in the third. Ramirez added insurance with his 21st homer, a solo shot in the eighth. Holt's homer to right in the ninth gave Boston a five-run cushion.
It was a tough night for the Padres, who lost starter Jarred Cosart to a right groin/hamstring strain while trying to catch an errant throw from first baseman Wil Myers in the fourth. The defeat assured San Diego of its sixth consecutive losing season.
"It was really grabbing pretty good," said Cosart of his hamstring. "I wanted to pitch, but that wasn't going to happen. It kind of calmed down, but we'll see where we're at tomorrow and the next day and make a decision from there."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Shaw makes statement: Disappointed about losing playing time to Yoan Moncada the previous four days, Shaw let his bat do the talking in his return to the lineup. The third baseman hit a mammoth, two-run home run to right in his first at-bat and an RBI single in his second at-bat. According to Statcast™, the home run was tied for Shaw's hardest hit of the season, with an exit velocity of 112 mph. Shaw's 16th homer of the season had a projected distance of 434 feet.
"Tonight, it just felt good to be back in the lineup and help my team win," Shaw said. "And recently I felt like I was on the verge of something pretty good." More >
Baseball lifer: Once a groundskeeper for the Augusta GreenJackets, Padres reliever Jake Smith made his debut Wednesday night -- and was greeted rudely by Ramirez, who homered on Smith's first Major League pitch. The right-hander then allowed a single, resulting from a miscommunication between Travis Jankowski and Alex Dickerson. But he promptly erased that with a double play, before getting Chris Young to fly to center. More >
"He did a great job of getting the double play ball," said Padres skipper Andy Green. "And he settled in nicely after the home run. Sometimes, you don't know how a guy's going to respond -- the first time on a Major League field, give up a home run on your very first pitch. He was right back in the strike zone. Those are good things to see."
Pedroia stays hot: Pedroia continues to drill the baseball for the Red Sox. The two-hit performance marked Pedroia's his 11th multi-hit contest in his last 13 games. Pedroia's two-run double in the fourth gave Price some breathing room. Pedroia is hitting .443 since moving to the leadoff spot on Aug. 10.
They've got Sol:Yangervis Solarte put the Padres on the board early with a first-inning rocket double into the left-field corner, scoring Myers. Solarte has now hit safely in eight of his last nine games and is batting .343 in that time.
"Yeah, that's fun. Whenever you're in the position we are right now, whenever you're playing teams that are right behind you or right in front of you, it means a lot to win those games. We've done a good job thus far in the season, and it'll be a big 23 games left." -- Price, on the stretch run
SURF'S UP FOR PAPI
Ortiz didn't start in this series, but he left with a nice gift. The Padres gave the slugger a surfboard so large that it even made Ortiz look small. There was a photo of Ortiz from the All-Star Game at Petco Park engraved into middle of the surfboard.
"It was great. There's all this appreciation. The San Diego Padres took their time to honor me and what I've accomplished in my career. It's a real honor," said Ortiz. More >
WHAT'S NEXT Red Sox: Following an off-day, the Red Sox open a three-game showdown with the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre on Friday night at 7:07 p.m. ET, with first place in the American League East on the line. Rick Porcello takes the mound in his first attempt to be Boston's first 20-game winner since Josh Beckett in 2007.
Padres:Clayton Richard takes the hill Thursday night, as the Padres welcome the Rockies to Petco Park for a four-game set. First pitch is slated for 7:10 p.m. PT. In four starts since returning to the Padres, Richard has allowed a total of three earned runs and owns a 67 percent ground-ball rate in that time.