BOSTON -- After the bullpen created yet more angst for an otherwise loaded team, the Red Sox still wound up stealing a 4-3 victory on Thursday night to complete a three-game sweep over the Blue Jays at Fenway Park.More accurately, it was Xander Bogaerts who stole the win.Credit the bat
BOSTON -- After the bullpen created yet more angst for an otherwise loaded team, the Red Sox still wound up stealing a 4-3 victory on Thursday night to complete a three-game sweep over the Blue Jays at Fenway Park.
More accurately, it was Xander Bogaerts who stole the win.
Credit the bat and legs of Bogaerts for igniting the rally that led the Sox to the go-ahead run in the eighth. Moments after ripping a one-out double to the corner in left, Bogaerts stole third without drawing a throw. He then scored on a dropped popup in shallow right.
With the win, the Red Sox improved to 101-46 and have a magic number of six to clinch the American League East. They now have a 10 1/2-game lead over the Yankees, which equals a season high.
It was Bogaerts who kept the momentum going for a team that has won four in a row and seven of its last nine.
"Xander hit a missile and got to second, and then it's something we've been doing with him the whole season, being aggressive on the bases," Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. "He got a good jump, got to third."
Bogaerts was eager to carry out the game plan and stole his seventh base of the season at just the right time.
"I mean, I needed to get to third base," Bogaerts said. "The coaches wanted me to try to pick a good jump and see if I could get there. It worked out. We got lucky."
Better yet, the Red Sox created their own luck.
The steal by Bogaerts put pressure on the Blue Jays, and perhaps it was enough to unnerve them. Blake Swihart hit a popup behind second base barely onto the outfield grass, and Yangervis Solarte dropped it for an error, allowing Bogaerts to score.
"You can score a lot of ways from third base," Cora said. "I forgot how many ways. Blake put the ball in play, and Solarte doesn't make the play, and we have Craig [Kimbrel]."
Kimbrel mowed right through the Blue Jays in the ninth, getting his 40th save on just eight pitches.
This took away the sting of what occurred in the top of the eighth.
Six outs from victory and up by two runs, things went haywire. Lefty Bobby Poyner served up a one-out, solo shot to Lourdes Gurriel Jr. to make it a 3-2 game. On came Joe Kelly, and he allowed all four batters he faced to reach by issuing a walk, a single and consecutive hit batters, as the tying run came in.
Kelly remains about as much of an enigma as the Red Sox have. In the first two months of the season covering 25 appearances, he had a 1.73 ERA and opponents were hitting .128 and slugging .151 against him. In the 42 outings since then, Kelly has a 6.11 ERA and opponents are batting .288 and slugging .432. Cora felt Kelly was starting to show progress before Thursday's meltdown.
"He didn't execute tonight," Cora said. "He's been good lately, but today he wasn't. He needs to get better, and he knows it. Today wasn't great for him. We trust the guy. It's two outs in the eighth. We expect him to go out there and get the out. He didn't do it today, but if we have a situation tomorrow where we can bring him in, we'll bring him in."
It was a mostly quiet night for the offense, but J.D. Martinez belted his 41st homer, a solo shot into Boston's bullpen in right-center, tying him with Oakland's Khris Davis for the Major League lead.
Eduardo Rodriguez pitched well enough to win, holding the Jays to five hits and a run over six innings. He wound up with a no decision.
Rafael Devers, who entered as an injury replacement for Eduardo Núñez (right knee soreness) in the fourth, hooked one down the line in right for a solo shot in the sixth that gave Boston a 3-1 lead.
"He was ready to play," Cora said. "Put a good swing on it, hit a home run. He'll be out there tomorrow."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Before Bogaerts put on his one-man show in the eighth, Brandon Workman assured that the Blue Jays would not take the lead in the top of the inning. He came on for Kelly with the bases loaded and two outs in a tie game. Workman struck out Billy McKinney on three pitches, finishing him off with a 94-mph fastball. Perhaps Workman can work himself into a higher-leverage role for a bullpen that remains in flux.
"I just feel like I'm in a good spot right now," Workman said. "I feel really comfortable with how I'm throwing the ball. It feels like it's coming out good. I have a lot of confidence with how I'm throwing it right now. I feel like right now I'm throwing the ball as good as I've thrown it in my career. I feel confident that I'm able to go in and execute pitches as well I have ever been able to do."
Martinez's 41 homers are tied for the second most by a Red Sox hitter in his first season with the club. Dick Stuart holds the record with 42 in 1963, so Martinez has a strong chance to pass him with 15 games left in the season.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
In the fourth, Teoscar Hernández hit a high fly ball to left-center that both Andrew Benintendi and Jackie Bradley Jr. pursued in front of the Green Monster. As Benintendi reached over to make the catch, his glove actually tangled with Bradley. It almost looked like they were high-fiving with their gloves. Benintendi hung on, and the Red Sox had the second out of the inning.
The Red Sox will face one of the nastiest starters in the Majors on Friday night in righty Noah Syndergaard (11-3, 3.44 ERA) to open a three-game series against the Mets. This will be the first time the Red Sox have faced Syndergaard since Aug. 30, 2015, when they got six hits and four runs against him over 6 2/3 innings. The Red Sox counter with spot starter Hector Velázquez, who is 2-2 with a 4.00 ERA in his seven turns in the rotation this season. First pitch at Fenway Park is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. ET.
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.