TORONTO -- The series finale between the Red Sox and Blue Jays turned into a back-and-forth marathon affair, but in the end, it was Boston that had enough to survive. The reward was a two-game lead in the American League East.
The Red Sox came out on top in a game that had the feeling of a postseason matchup. There were six home runs hit, 18 pitchers used and six lead changes as Boston staked its ownership over first place with an 11-8 victory on Sunday afternoon at Rogers Centre.
"You can't sit back and relax," said Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia. "We know our division is good and we have to continue to play well."
David Ortiz hit a three-run homer in the sixth off Joaquin Benoit to give the Red Sox the lead for good. Jackie Bradley Jr. and Hanley Ramirez added homers for Boston while the bottom three of their order combined to reach base eight times. Travis Shaw was the only member of Boston's starting nine to finish without a hit as the club scored early and often against Blue Jays starter Aaron Sanchez and most of Toronto's bullpen.
"We never rolled over," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "We kept grinding, and kept finding a way to come back."
Right-hander Clay Buchholz left with a no-decision after he allowed six runs on four hits and four walks over just three innings. He was staked to an early 4-1 lead, but gave it all back in a five-run third, which included a grand slam by shortstop Troy Tulowitzki. Edwin Encarnacion hit a pair of home runs for the Blue Jays, but it was not enough.
With 20 games to play for both teams, the Red Sox move into frontrunner status for the division crown. These two clubs will not meet again until the final series of the regular season, Oct. 1-3 at Fenway Park. Toronto now finds itself tied with Baltimore for the first AL Wild Card spot after the Orioles pulled out a 3-1 victory over Detroit on Sunday afternoon. The Tigers and Yankees remained two games back of the Blue Jays.
"The Blue Jays have been playing outstanding baseball the past couple years and basically everybody is chasing the first place in the division," said Ortiz. "It's a team that has a lot of talent. It's a team that is hard to beat.They're going through a funk right now, but it doesn't mean that's what they are, so you have to bring your best every time you play them."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Papi's latest against Benoit: Of all the big hits both teams delivered, Ortiz's three-run shot against Joaquin Benoit proved to be the difference. It gave the Red Sox a 10-8 lead in the sixth. It was Ortiz's 535th career homer, putting him ahead of Jimmie Foxx for 18th on the all-time list, just one behind Mickey Mantle. It was Ortiz's second career home against Benoit. The other was the game-tying grand slam in Game 2 of the 2013 American League Championship Series. It was Ortiz's 41st homer at Rogers Centre, his most at any visiting park, and the most at the venue by a visiting player.
"I thought he was going to do it on the first pitch, but he waited until the second," said Buchholz. "He's having a hell of a going-away party. Hopefully we can extend this into October." More >
Hanley answers Encarnacion: When Ramirez came to the plate as the second batter in the fifth, the crowd at Rogers Centre was still buzzing from the prodigious, two-run shot Encarnacion had put into the 300 level in left just moments earlier. Ramirez answered with a long ball every bit as impressive. His solo shot to center left the bat at 111 mph and had a projected distance of 444 feet, according to Statcast™. Encarnacion's homer registered at 110 mph and 440 feet. Ramirez's homer slimmed Boston's deficit to 8-7, setting the stage for Ortiz's go-ahead drive an inning later.
Running into trouble: The Red Sox were trailing by one in the fifth when they tried to catch the Blue Jays napping. Brock Holt took a big walking lead off third base with two outs and then made a surprise break for home while Bradley was at the plate. Lefty Aaron Loup was a little slow to react, but either the sold-out crowd or catcher Russell Martin managed to get his attention. Loup then stepped off the rubber and threw home before Martin applied a quick tag to record the out. That temporarily kept Toronto's lead intact.
"I'm 28 years old and I've never tried to steal home before," said Holt. "Yeah, that's the first time. We kind of talked about it and got to one strike and we kind of said, "Let's give it a go.'" More >
Tulo Time: Toronto fell behind, 4-1, but Tulowitzki got all of that back and more when he hit a grand slam as part of the Blue Jays' five-run third. According to Statcast™, Tulowitzki's third career slam was projected to travel 393 feet and left his bat at 107 mph. It was his first slam since 2008 and came as part of an afternoon that saw Encarnacion hit a solo homer in the first and a go-ahead two-run shot in the fourth for his 25th career multihomer game. More >
Papi lumbers home from first: In the first, you saw something you don't see often. When Mookie Betts lined a double over the head of center fielder Kevin Pillar, Ortiz roared all the way home from first. It was the first time Big Papi has scored from first on a double since 2014. According to Statcast™, Ortiz made it home in 11.45 seconds.
"We try our best to get him up there with guys on. We know he's going to come through or have a good at-bat. He's pretty special. We're just enjoying it." -- Pedroia, on Ortiz
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Ortiz's 110 RBIs are the most in history by a player 40 or older. Dave Winfield held the previous record with 108 for the Blue Jays in 1992.
The Blue Jays lost a crucial challenge in the bottom of the ninth. With one out and a runner on, Martin hit a deep fly ball off the wall in right field. First-base umpire Jim Joyce initially signaled fair and Martin went to second on the double, with Encarnacion -- who had walked -- moving to third. The umpires then got together and reversed their decision and called it foul instead.
Toronto manager John Gibbons ran onto the field and asked for a review. Following a two-minute, 10-second review, the call on the field was confirmed, which meant the video replays officials determined they had sufficient video evidence to make a clear decision. Gibbons clearly disagreed as he ran back onto the field to argue and was promptly ejected by home-plate umpire Marvin Hudson. More >
Gibbons also lost a challenge in the fifth following an attempted pickoff at first base. Holt reached via a walk and then took a couple of sidesteps towards second when right-hander Joe Biagini made a throw over to first. Despite being somewhat off-balance, Holt managed to dive back into first as the tag was being applied by Encarnacion. Joyce signalled safe and it was ruled that the call stands following a review because there was not sufficient video evidence to overturn or confirm the call.
WHAT'S NEXT Red Sox: Red-hot lefty David Price, who is 6-0 with a 2.14 ERA in his last six starts, begins a crucial, seven-game homestand. Monday's first pitch against the Orioles is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. ET at Fenway Park. Baltimore is in for three games, followed by four against the surging Yankees.
Blue Jays: Left-hander Francisco Liriano (7-12, 5.27) will take the mound when the Blue Jays open a three-game series vs. the Rays on Monday at Rogers Centre at 7:07 p.m. ET. Toronto will be looking for some redemption after the club was swept out of central Florida during a three-game series against Tampa Bay last week. The Rays also are one of just two teams to sweep the Blue Jays at home this season.