With runners on first and second in the ninth inning and the Red Sox looking for a walkoff win Sunday at Fenway Park, Shane Victorino ripped a ground ball to the right side of the Blue Jays infield.
It was too hot for Toronto first baseman Josh Thole, and as it bounced off him and onto the outfield grass, pinch runner Jonathan Diaz raced around to score the deciding run in the Red Sox’ 5-4 win.
The Sox had to rally in the ninth after watching closer Koji Uehara blow his first save since taking over the role a little more than a week ago.
Trying to protect a 4-3 lead, Uehara gave up a long and loud tying home run to Jose Bautista. In his previous four outings, he had retired 14 straight batters.
Still, with the walkoff victory, the Sox reached 50 wins by July for just the fourth time in franchise history. They are the first team to reach 50 wins in the American League.
Snyder went 2 for 4 with a two-run double, Jonny Gomes and Ryan Lavarnway both came up with run-scoring doubles (Gomes’s a drive off the Monster, Lavarnway’s a quirky ground-ruler that bounced off the warning track in right and into the stands), and Daniel Nava went 2 for 4 with a run scored.
Through his 5⅓ innings, Ryan Dempster weaved in and out of trouble. Pitching to contact, he gave up seven hits and twice found himself in jams with runners in scoring position. But he came away unscathed for the most part, giving up just two runs.
The Blue Jays squandered a golden opportunity in the sixth. After Thole worked Dempster for a leadoff walk, Rajai Davis and Colby Rasmus followed with singles to load the bases with no outs.
But the bottom of the lineup came up empty. Dempster got JP Arencibia to pop to short before manager John Farrell came out to take the ball from him. Craig Breslow came on and got Maicer Izturis to pop another one up to short before getting a big strikeout against pinch hitter Emilio Bonifacio that kept the Sox’ two-run lead intact.
With the Sox off Monday, Farrell didn’t hesitate to go to his bullpen.
After Breslow gave up a leadoff homer to Jose Reyes in the seventh, Farrell called on righthander Alex Wilson to pitch to power-hitting righties Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. Bautista tagged Wilson for a single, but Wilson got Encarnacion to pop up along the first base line. With the righties out of the way, Farrell called on lefty Andrew Miller, who sawed through the two hitters he faced, striking out Thole swinging and Davis looking.
Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.