Blue Jays stumble in wild-card race as Red Sox win 5-3
BOSTON (AP) — David Ortiz has knocked plenty of teams out of the playoffs with his late-inning heroics.
This time he is hurting the Toronto Blue Jays’ chances of making it there.
The soon-to-retire Red Sox slugger opened his final weekend with yet another game-winning homer on Friday night, lining a two-run shot into the right-field stands to break a seventh-inning tie and help Boston beat Toronto 5-3.
The Blue Jays fell one game behind Baltimore in the wild-card race and are now within range of Detroit and Seattle in the fight for the AL’s final postseason berth.
“We needed it. We need every game,” said Blue Jays starter Marco Estrada, who lasted five innings but left with a 3-1- lead. “We’re still in it. We’re right there.”
Devon Travis had three hits, including a pair of doubles, and Jose Batista homered for Toronto. But the Blue Jays blew the lead in the seventh.
Andrew Benintendi led with a double and Dustin Pedroia dribbled one to the third base side. Catcher Russell Martin’s throw went past first baseman Justin Smoak; the ball got trapped under the tarp down the right-field line and time was called.
Benintendi took off for third, and Pedroia scrambled back to first. Toronto manager John Gibbons came out to argue, but things got worse when the umpires awarded Pedroia second base; after some more arguing, Benintendi was pointed home.
“I picked up the ball, slick ball, turned around and threw it as quickly as I could. It just 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.”
One out later, Mookie Betts singled to make it 3-3, and then Brett Cecil came in to face Ortiz. The crowd, which sat through a 25-minute rain delay to see him, rose to its feet chanting “Papi!”
After working the count to 2-1, Ortiz lined the ball past the Pesky Pole to send Fenway into one more frenzy. The chants waned slightly before Ortiz popped out of the dugout for a curtain call.
“I’ve seen it for 10 years: Every time there’s a big situation, he’s always found a way to come through,” said Pedroia, who had three hits and reached 201 for the season. “We’re going to enjoy it, because it’s pretty special.”
With his image mowed into the grass in center for the final regular-season series of his career, Ortiz was honored in a pregame ceremony and responded with an RBI single in the first. With his 38th homer — No. 541 of his career, Ortiz tied Ken Griffey Jr. and Rafael Palmeiro for eighth on baseball’s all-time list with 1,192 extra-base hits.
“On a night that begins a weekend celebration, I don’t know that you can write a script for what David did here tonight offensively,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “Nights like tonight he almost leaves you speechless. ... (He) turned this place upside down.”
Told that Farrell called it a storybook finish, Ortiz said, “I wish that it is.”
“We worked pretty hard to get here, and it’s working out pretty good,” the 40-year-old slugger said.
The Red Sox snapped a three-game losing streak and stayed a half-game ahead of Cleveland in the race for home-field advantage when their playoff series begins next week.
Brad Ziegler (2-3) picked up the win with one inning of scoreless relief after major league wins-leader Rick Porcello failed to pick up his 23rd victory. Craig Kimbrel pitched the ninth for his 31st save.
Joe Biagini (4-3) allowed three runs and four hits in 1 1/3 innings.
Toronto: Estrada took an Ortiz liner off the leg in the third inning but fielded the ball and remained in the game.
Boston: Farrell said knuckleballer Steven Wright would need two more bullpen sessions before facing live batters and thus was ruled out for at least the first round of the postseason.
Blue Jays: LHP J.A. Happ (20-4) will start as Toronto tries to hold off Baltimore in the AL wild-card race.
Red Sox: LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (3-7) will make his last regular-season start.