BOSTON -- David Ortiz began his final regular-season weekend with a go-ahead two-run homer that damaged Toronto's postseason hopes while leading the Red Sox to a 5-3 victory Friday at Fenway Park that improved their chances at home field in the American League Division Series.
The loss slipped the Blue Jays into the second AL Wild Card spot one game behind the Orioles, who beat the Yankees. Toronto is just a half-game ahead of the Tigers, who defeated the Braves, and one game ahead of the Mariners, who beat the A's. The Red Sox maintained their half-game lead over the Indians for the No. 2 seed and own the tiebreaker because Boston won the season series. The Red Sox-Indians matchup in the Division Series is set now that Texas clinched the No. 1 seed in the AL.
Playing for home field and trying to keep his team sharp entering the postseason is why manager John Farrell played his "A" lineup on Friday, something he's likely to do all weekend in games that will be crucial for Toronto.
"Like I told you guys earlier today, we're going to be walking into the playoffs pretty soon and we want to stay sharp," said Ortiz. "It was fun to see our lineup out there today kind of regrouping."
The Blue Jays had broken out to a 3-1 lead in the fifth inning against AL Cy Young Award candidate Rick Porcello on the strength of a prodigious two-run homer to left by Jose Bautista that snapped a tie.
In a four-run seventh inning, the Red Sox gained momentum from a strange play in which Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin fielded a tapper by Dustin Pedroia but threw errantly to first. In fact, the throw, which nearly hit Pedroia, went out of play. Pedroia was awarded second base, and at the discretion of the umpires, Andrew Benintendi, who started the play at second, was permitted to score to make it a one-run game.
After Mookie Betts tied it up with an RBI single against Joe Biagini, it was Big Papi's turn, and he roped a two-run homer down the line in right off Brett Cecil, eliciting roars from the Fenway faithful. Ortiz then came out for a curtain call.
"I'm focused. I just want to go out there and do something when I step up to the plate," said Ortiz. "Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Papi honored, then goes deep: In the first of three ceremonies that will honor Ortiz this weekend, the slugger was honored for his off-field contributions. Once the game started, Ortiz wasted no time making his presence felt, lacing an RBI single to left in the first inning that broke a scoreless tie. That broke an 0-for-10 hitless streak for Big Papi. In Ortiz's third at-bat in the fifth, he hit a bullet to right with an exit velocity of 109 mph, per Statcast™, but Bautista flagged it down. But he saved his best for his final at-bat, producing home run No. 38 on the season -- and 500 with the Red Sox, including postseason.
"On a night that begins a weekend celebration, I don't know that you can write a script any better than what David did tonight offensively," said Farrell. "A long at-bat in the first inning, he takes a pitch on the outside part of the plate for an RBI single and then in the 2-1 count against Cecil -- who's had some decent success against him -- he turns this place upside down, given the time of the game and what was needed." More >
Costly error: Toronto carried a 3-1 lead into the seventh inning, but that didn't last long thanks in part to an error charged to Martin. With a runner on second and nobody out, Pedroia hit a little dribbler out in front of home plate. Martin fielded the ball and fired to first, but his throw was off the mark and sailed past Justin Smoak. The ball then got caught underneath the tarp down the right-field line as Pedroia was awarded second and Benintendi was awarded home.
"I picked up the ball, it was a slick ball, turned around and threw it as quickly as I could and it took off on me," Martin said. "I wish I could take it back. I feel like that's a play I can make in my sleep, but today it didn't happen." More >
Porcello strong Cy contender: Porcello's body of work is now complete in his quest to win the AL's Cy Young Award. In 33 starts, Porcello went 22-4 with a 3.15 ERA. He finished the regular season with 13 consecutive quality starts. The righty logged a career-high 223 innings, walking just 32 and striking out 189.
"He's the Cy Young, man, no doubt about it," said Ortiz. "You can put it down like that. What he's been doing this season and his numbers, they speak for themselves."
Bautista blast: The Blue Jays went 20 innings without scoring a run until the club finally showed some signs of life in the top of the fifth. Devon Travis sparked the rally with a double off the Green Monster in left-center field and later came around to score on a sacrifice fly by Josh Donaldson. Bautista then put his team in front with a two-run shot that easily cleared the Monster for his 22nd homer of the season. It was Bautista's 41st career home run vs. Boston, which is the most by any active player. Bautista is 16-for-38 with four homers against Porcello, but that was the extent of Toronto's offense.
"I don't see that," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said, when asked if his team was trying to do too much at the plate. "All they're doing is competing. It's nothing more than that. They're no different now than they ever have been. They're grinding it out, they're tired like everybody else but they're competing. We put some guys on base, we just couldn't cash them in. It's no more than that. Maybe tomorrow is a big day, they'll break out tomorrow."
"Big-time player. Big-time playmaker. Big-time home run." -- Red Sox center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr., on Ortiz coming through yet again
"Get hits. I don't have a better reason. Find a way to get a hit. There's nothing else you can do. It's a game where you battle. It's a reactional game, split-second decisions. Sometimes you hit a weak fly ball and it ends up being a knock and you're getting high-fives. Sometimes you hit a rocket missile at somebody and it's an out. It can be a treacherous game, but the key for us is to just keep battling." -- Martin, on the Blue Jays going 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position
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Pedroia has hit in 30 straight games against the Blue Jays, the longest streak by an opposing hitter in Toronto's history.
WHAT'S NEXT Blue Jays: Left-hander J.A. Happ (20-4, 3.20 ERA) will take the mound for the second game of this series Saturday at 7:10 p.m. ET looking to help the Blue Jays maintain a Wild Card spot. Happ has allowed three earned runs or fewer in six consecutive outings and has won both of his starts vs. Boston this season.
Red Sox: Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez (3-7, 4.68 ERA) makes his final tune-up for the postseason against the Blue Jays at Fenway Park. Rodriguez held the Rays to three hits and a run over 5 1/3 innings in his last start, striking out 13. Rodriguez is still looking for his first win of the season at Fenway, where he is 0-4 with a 6.10 ERA.