BOSTON – Fenway Park is the place where the Toronto Blue Jays once rallied from a 10-run deficit to defeat the Boston Red Sox 13-11, so in terms of franchise history there have been bigger comebacks than the stunner they pulled off Friday night.
But man, the way they erased a seven-run deficit in a remarkable, unbelievable 13-10 victory was something to behold, a most unlikely way to extend their season-best winning streak to nine games.
In a week that already included two walk-off wins, the Blue Jays found a way to push the drama to another level.
“A lot of ups,” is how closer Brett Cecil described the past few games. “It’s awesome.”
Drew Hutchison, in perhaps the worst start of his career, buried his team in an 8-1 hole in the third inning, but at no point did it feel like the reeling Red Sox, already in turmoil before they completely soiled themselves in this one, had a firm grip on things.
As it turned out, they didn’t.
A three-run fifth – highlighted by one of two Ryan Goins RBI doubles, a Jose Reyes run-scoring groundout and a Josh Donaldson RBI single – off the ever enigmatic Joe Kelly made it 8-4. Kelly carried that advantage into the seventh when he handed things over to Matt Barnes, and nine runs later, the Blue Jays had their biggest inning of the season and a 13-8 lead.
“It’s definitely fun to have that in the memory bank,” said Russell Martin, who smashed a go-ahead three-run triple in the decisive frame. “Whenever we’re down from here on out, we know that we’ve come back from 8-1, so being down is no longer an excuse for us.
“In that sense, I feel we can build on that.”
The Blue Jays batted around and scored nine times without making a single out – the first team to accomplish that since the Red Sox plated 12 against Cleveland on May 7, 2009, according to Elias.
It went like this: Kevin Pillar single; Goins RBI double; Reyes RBI single; Donaldson infield single to third baseman Pablo Sandoval, who might have had a play had he fielded it cleanly; Jose Bautista RBI single; Edwin Encarnacion single; Chris Colabello run-scoring grounder that Sandoval couldn’t handle for an E5; Martin three-run triple; Justin Smoak two-run homer.
Facing Barnes, Junichi Tazawa and Tommy Layne, they were like a pack of coyotes ripping apart a carcass.
“You can kind of feel it build,” Martin said of the pressure on the Red Sox. “You kind of sense it within the crowd, it gets a little tense, especially when you’re on the road, you can feel the fans getting a little restless, and that’s definitely what you felt tonight.”
By the time the Red Sox knew what had happened, the Blue Jays had the fifth comeback victory from a deficit of seven runs or more in club history. The most recent came last June 20 when they erased an eight-run hole to beat the Cincinnati Reds 14-9, but this was different.
The Red Sox, losers of three straight coming in, spent the early afternoon putting out fires after starter Wade Miley showed up manager John Farrell in the dugout after being told he was being pulled between innings.
After showing little remorse for his actions the previous night, Miley showed more contrition Friday while Farrell, who didn’t seem especially forceful after the fact, was far more stern, describing his pitcher’s actions as “unacceptable.”
When they jumped on Hutchison with five runs in the first – on a David Ortiz two-run single and back-to-back home runs by Sandoval and Mookie Betts – and then piled on in the third with Dustin Pedroia’s three-run homer, it was exactly what a team bobbing in the ocean needed.
“They came out swinging, good energy,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons, said of the Red Sox.
Only it didn’t last long.
“It’s really tough to explain that game,” said Gibbons, “but it’s a hell of a win.”
Bo Schultz delivered 2.2 scoreless innings of relief that were pivotal, Steve Delabar added a scoreless sixth to earn the win and Aaron Loup pitched an all-important shutdown seventh after the nine-run outburst.
The Red Sox tried to rally in the eighth, getting an RBI single from Xander Bogaerts and bringing the tying run to the plate in the form of Mike Napoli, who promptly struck out on three pitches from Brett Cecil.
The left-hander, getting his first save opportunity since nailing down a 3-1 win over the New York Yankees on May 4, came back out for the ninth and surrendered an RBI double to Rusney Castillo before locking it down.
“A seven-run lead is a hell of a difference to cover,” said Cecil. “It happens to every baseball player that plays, you’re down seven runs after the third inning, you know it’s possible but you know the likelihood (of rallying) is pretty slim. I believe my team can do it, and they believe, obviously, that they can do it. The statistics aren’t in our favour, but that doesn’t mean we can’t believe we can do it. We started scratching and clawing our way back early and we just had that uproar seventh inning.
“It’s just unbelievable. That’s the only word that comes to mind when I think of this team in this game.”
Unbelievable pretty much nails it, which is why comebacks like this tend to obscure what went wrong, and the Blue Jays obviously need Hutchison, who had the shortest start of his career not including the 2012 outing when he blew out his elbow, to be more consistent.
Although there were fluctuations, he had been in a stretch of six relatively solid starts before getting clobbered for eight earned runs, a career high.
“He didn’t have the same fastball command that he’s had in his really good outings, and he didn’t have the sharpness of the off-speed stuff,” said Martin. “For him, everything goes off his fastball command, when he’s darting it down and away, that’s when he’s really good, and everything plays off that, he can up-shoot the fastball from there. But when he’s in that mid-thigh area, he’s going to get hit. I think that’s what we saw today.”
On a wild and memorable night, however, it didn’t matter, as the Blue Jays keep outhitting all of their troubles.