BOSTON -- Roberto Osuna nearly found his place in Toronto-sports infamy on Saturday night with an ill-timed balk that could have cost the Blue Jays their season. Instead, the Blue Jays -- and their 21-year-old closer -- bounced back in a 4-3 victory over Boston at Fenway Park.
Toronto was clinging to a one-run lead in the eighth inning when Jackie Bradley Jr. stepped to the plate with two outs and a runner on third. The count was 3-0 when catcher Russell Martin called for a cut fastball. Osuna made one small initial move to go into his windup, but then changed his mind about what pitch he wanted to throw.
Osuna stopped his motion and tried to step off the rubber, but by then it was too late. Home-plate umpire Quinn Wolcott signaled for the balk, and Mookie Betts was sent from third to home as the Red Sox tied the game at 3. For a few moments, it looked like the Blue Jays were headed for a disaster.
"I changed my mind about the pitch," Osuna said through an interpreter after the game. "Russ called for a cutter and I wanted to throw something else.
"I was really happy to win this game knowing this was like a playoff game for us, especially because of what happened in the eighth inning."
Osuna escaped the eighth when he got Bradley to hit a grounder to first base. Then his teammates made sure he was let off the hook in the ninth inning with a rally that helped the Blue Jays clinch at least a tie for an American League Wild Card spot.
Michael Saunders led off the ninth with a walk. Dalton Pompey entered the game as a pinch-runner, advanced to second on a bunt and moved over to third on a wild pitch charged to Boston closer Craig Kimbrel. Ezequiel Carrera then put the Blue Jays back in front with a seven-pitch at-bat that resulted in a sacrifice fly to left field.
Osuna had his second chance and once he got it, he wasn't going to give it back. The second-year reliever opened the ninth by getting Andrew Benintendi to fly out. He then got Marco Hernandez and Dustin Pedroia on a pair of back-to-back groundouts to second base. One, two, three and just like that the Blue Jays were one win away from clinching the top AL Wild Card spot.
The win moved Toronto to 1 1/2 games ahead of the Tigers, who lost, 5-3, to the Braves on Saturday night. The Blue Jays, who are tied with the Orioles for the top AL Wild Card spot, know their season will not come to an end on Sunday, but a win against the Red Sox would help avoid a potential tiebreaker situation and guarantee home-field advantage for the AL Wild Card Game.
"I was aggressive, I wanted to win knowing that my last outings didn't go too well," said Osuna, who has been charged with a blown save in three of his last four outings. "I was hungry and I wanted to show the team that I was confident. It worked for me today."
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.