Comeback adds to strong showing down stretch
Red Sox providing hope for near future with young players contributing
TORONTO -- With a crowd of 47,415 blaring with excitement on Saturday afternoon at Rogers Centre, the Red Sox felt the pulse of the pennant race -- even though they aren't part of it.
A stirring comeback in the top of the ninth paved the way to a thrilling 7-6 win over the Blue Jays, serving as another reminder that Boston has done anything but play out the string over these final few weeks.
The Red Sox, who have a core of thriving young players mixing with the familiar duo of Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz, clearly seem to be building toward contention in 2016, provided president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski can upgrade the pitching staff.
It was Ortiz who put the Red Sox ahead with an RBI single, and Pedroia roared home with a textbook hook slide. Jackie Bradley Jr. provided the biggest hit of the ninth inning, a game-tying two-run homer to right against Jays closer Roberto Osuna.
"The guys played hard for nine innings and that's been a characteristic of this team for quite some time," said interim manager Torey Lovullo. "And in this environment, to step up and get the job done and do what they did, it was a pretty good moment. I saw team at-bats; I saw team pitches. I saw guys picking up one another. That's exactly what we're all about here in Boston."
The Sox are 18-11 since Aug. 11, the third-best mark in the American League over that span.
That run included the Red Sox going into Citi Field -- an atmosphere similar to Rogers Centre this weekend -- and taking two of three from the National League East-leading Mets.
"It's definitely more exciting playing against a team that's in a pennant race than playing against one that's not, with us being in the position we're in," said shortstop Xander Bogaerts. "But being in the playoffs is something everyone wants to be a part of. When you have that, there's excitement from the fans, from the whole staff, the organization."
Bogaerts was fortunate enough to play in a pennant race, and he helped lead the Red Sox to a World Series championship in 2013. But players like Bradley, Mookie Betts and Blake Swihart haven't been so fortunate.
That's what's valuable about games like the one the Red Sox won on Saturday.
"We were in New York playing against the Mets and I felt the same vibe there," said Lovullo. "Our kids stepped up and won two out of three. This was a little different because we showed a lot of character and we showed a lot of crunch-time moments that weren't going to impact us. In this environment, with this crowd, the team we were going against, the pitcher we were going against, it was very impressive. Yeah, I think it will take everybody to the next level."
With this win, the Red Sox actually helped their rivals from the Bronx, as the Yankees moved to 3 1/2 games back of the Blue Jays in the American League East.
"This is what it's all about, playoff baseball and playoff atmosphere and I'm happy we won the game," said Lovullo.
The Red Sox only hope that next year they will have more direct benefits from such a win.