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Hanley Ramirez’ walkoff homer in 15th inning lifts Red Sox past Toronto

July 19, 2017

The Red Sox needed pitching. That’s what manager John Farrell explained before last night’s game. That’s why the team had called up two pitchers, left the bench thin and put together a lineup a little more left-leaning that it would have been otherwise.

Of course, what the Red Sox wound up needing were runs. And they eventually found just enough of them.

Pitching carried the Red Sox into extra innings – again – and every time it seemed their lineup was outgunned, the Sox would come up with just enough offense to keep it going until finally Hanley Ramirez hit a walk-off home run in the 15th inning to beat the Blue Jays 5-4 at 1:09 a.m.

“That’s a good win,” Ramirez said. “That’s a good win, but it’s not the year. We’ve got to keep winning and winning.”

It was the Red Sox’ second walk-off win in the past five days, but it was only their fourth win of any sort since the Wednesday before the All-Star break. The second-place Rays also won in Oakland – a West Coast game that ended before this one – so the Red Sox maintained their two-game advantage in the division.

The game was played just as news was breaking of a significant change within the division as the rival Yankees completed a trade to acquire third baseman Todd Frazier along with relievers David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle, three players who would have fit nicely on this Red Sox roster.

“Pretty good players, but I believe in our team,” Ramirez said. “We’ll just see. We have to keep pushing to the limit.”

The Red Sox have certainly done that.

Last night was another long one in a homestand already full of long games. The Red Sox played a 16-inning game Saturday, an 18-inning doubleheader Sunday, and now this 15-inning marathon.

“Credit to our guys,” manager John Farrell said. “We’re in tight games throughout, there’s high stress to pitches, high stress to plays. They’ve done an outstanding job to go through this stretch of four days that we’ve just come through.”

It was because of all those long nights that the Red Sox called up spot starter Brian Johnson and extra long reliever Hector Velazquez before last night’s game.

The pitching held up. Johnson allowed three runs through six mostly effective innings, and Velazquez came out of the bullpen to pitch the final four innings for his second big league win.

The question was whether the Red Sox offense could take charge.

They’d led 1-0 early, but had fallen behind 3-1. Dustin Pedroia had almost single-handedly kept them afloat with a solo home run in the sixth and a booming, game-tying double in the seventh. Pedroia had also made a heads-up play in the eighth to chase down a base runner and then flip to first base for a double play that kept the go-ahead run from scoring.

But the Red Sox were 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position, continuing their recent trend of wasted opportunities, which had cost them two games over the weekend against the Yankees and almost cost them again.

“Neither team really could build an inning,” Mookie Betts said. “So, credit to pitchers. You’ve got to give credit to the pitchers. I think everybody was kind of waiting around for that one swing of the bat. Fortunately, it was us.”

Reliever Brandon Workman, who’s been impressive since rejoining the team right after the All-Star break, allowed a leadoff double in the top of the 11th, which led to a go-ahead run for the Blue Jays.

It would have been enough to win it, but in the bottom of the 11th, the Red Sox lucked into a run-scoring opportunity and finally took advantage.

Jackie Bradley Jr. led off with a clean single, and when Sandy Leon tried to bunt him over, the bunt was popped up and over the head of Josh Donaldson, who had charged from third base.

Better lucky than good, the Red Sox had two on with no outs, but Deven Marrero struck out failing to execute a sacrifice bunt, and Brock Holt struck out swinging. It was Betts who finally came through with a two-out, game-tying single to right field.

That was enough to keep the game alive until Ramirez — making a rare start at first base because Sam Travis had been sent down for the extra pitcher — could win it with his 15th homer of the year.

“Everybody that was available to us contributed inside of this one,” Farrell said. “The work the guys coming out of the bullpen did, Hector Velazquez with four quality innings of work on his part, so this was a gritty win and a very important win.”