BOSTON -- Boston used a four-run rally to send the Blue Jays to a crushing 5-3 loss on Friday night, but the come-from-behind victory might never have happened without a bizarre series of events in the seventh inning.
Before David Ortiz hit the decisive two-run homer, there was a strange play that helped make everything possible. A little dribbler in front of the plate, a Russell Martin error and a ball trapped under a tarp. Just like that, the Blue Jays were in trouble.
The loss dealt Toronto yet another blow in its chase for the postseason. The Blue Jays fell one game back of the Orioles, who beat the Yankees, for the top American League Wild Card spot, and the Tigers pulled within a half-game of Toronto after a victory over Atlanta. Seattle moved to within a game of the Blue Jays after a win over Oakland.
The Red Sox, meanwhile, maintained a half-game lead over the Indians, who beat the Royals, for home-field advantage in their AL Division Series matchup. The Rangers clinched home field throughout the postseason with a win over the Rays on Friday night.
"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 while referencing the rain-soaked conditions at Fenway Park. "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."
Toronto's problems began when Andrew Benintendi led off the seventh with a double to right field. Dustin Pedroia followed with a dribbler out in front of the plate, and that's when things got a little chaotic. Martin fielded the ball and fired to first, but his throw sailed up the line and got trapped underneath the tarp.
Blue Jays second baseman Devon Travis initially tried to dig the ball out, but he could not find it. He put his hands up in the air to call time and alert the umpires that the ball was no longer in play, and as a result Pedroia was awarded second and Benintendi went from third to home.
According to Major League Baseball's Universal Ground Rules, a ball lodging behind or underneath the canvas field tarp is out of play. That's why each baserunner was awarded an extra base. With Pedroia in scoring position, Mookie Betts came through two batters later with a game-tying single up the middle and Ortiz added the decisive two-run shot.
"On the overthrow it gets trapped, it's a dead ball, so you're awarded the extra 90 feet," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "At that time in the game, every 90 feet is going to be important. We catch a little bit of a break, we were able to put some hits together and the error benefits us, but it sets the table for David."
Blue Jays manager John Gibbons initially ran onto the field to argue the call at first base. He understood the ground rules but was hoping that Pedroia would be called out for runner's interference.
Home-plate umpire Mark Carlson did not see things that way and felt that Pedroia remained in the baseline.
"I was just seeing if he was running out of the baseline, interfering with the throw," Gibbons said. "They judge that off whether the first baseman has a chance to make a play on the ball, that's how they judge it. The home-plate umpire, that's his call. That's all that was."
Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.