Late-game dramatics. Post-season intensity. Even a dugout-clearing dust-up.
The Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays heightened their rivalry Wednesday in a 10-inning matchup between American League East teams who seem primed for a standings battle over the second half of the season.
Boston managed to avoid a three-game sweep by hanging on for a 6-5 victory at Rogers Centre. Matt Strahm (3-2) gave up two runs in the bottom of the 10th before getting George Springer on a flyout with runners in scoring position to end it.
“It’s like playing playoff games every day,” said Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo. “That’s how it feels and that’s all good. It’s not going to stop.”
Boston scored three runs in the top of the 10th as reliever David Phelps (0-2) issued two walks before hitting a batter to bring automatic runner Jackie Bradley Jr., home with the go-ahead run. Alex Verdugo tacked on a two-run double off Tim Mayza.
Santiago Espinal and Cavan Biggio drove in a run apiece in the bottom half but were left stranded as Boston (43-33) won for the eighth time in 10 games.
Verdugo also homered and Franchy Cordero had four hits for the Red Sox, who moved a half-game up on third-place Toronto with the victory. Springer hit a solo shot for the Blue Jays (42-33).
“We fell a little bit short but we’re just going to keep fighting, keep getting after it and keep trying to win games,” said Toronto starter Alek Manoah.
After starting a rally with a pinch-hit single in a walkoff victory a night earlier, Toronto catcher Alejandro Kirk helped get the offence going again in the series finale.
He drew a leadoff walk from Boston starter Nick Pivetta in the second inning and moved to second on a Raimel Tapia single. Espinal later drove in Kirk with the game’s opening run.
Cordero tied it when he scored on a Rob Refsnyder sacrifice fly in the third. Tension rose in the bottom half of the frame after Pivetta hit Kirk in the left elbow with a pitch.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr., had some words for the Victoria native from the dugout and led the charge as the dugouts and bullpens emptied. The two squads mostly jawed with each other and Springer corralled Guerrero to help prevent things from escalating.
Kirk, one of the hottest hitters in the major leagues, stayed in the game.
“I don’t know what the intents were,” Montoyo said. “I won’t be able to read their minds, I’m not that smart. I just know what I know but I keep it to myself.”
Toronto loaded the bases but Tapia struck out to end the threat.
“I don’t hit a lot of guys,” Pivetta said. “I think it’s unwarranted the way they reacted. It’s not what I’m trying to do in that situation.”
Springer put a charge into the announced crowd of 27,601 in the fifth inning with his 15th homer of the season. His defensive skills were in form, too, as he made a nice diving catch in the sixth on a sinking liner from J.D. Martinez.
Xander Bogaerts singled later in the frame and scored on Verdugo’s sixth homer of the year.
Pivetta was pulled after issuing a leadoff walk to Biggio in the seventh inning. The Canadian was treated to a chorus of boos as he walked to the dugout.
Toronto pulled even in the eighth inning. Lourdes Gurriel Jr., hit a one-out double and pinch-runner Bradley Zimmer scored on a Tapia double off reliever Ryan Brasier.
The Red Sox had a runner on third base with one out in the ninth inning against Jordan Romano but he struck out pinch-hitter Bobby Dalbec and got Bradley on a flyout.
The game took three hours 54 minutes to play.
The probable pitchers for Toronto’s upcoming five-game series against Tampa Bay have yet to be formally unveiled but manager Charlie Montoyo said Yusei Kikuchi was tabbed for the opener Thursday night.
Jose Berrios will pitch Friday and Kevin Gausman will start Saturday, although it wasn’t determined whether he’d start Game 1 or 2 of the doubleheader.
Former Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin will be honoured during the pre-game ceremonies on Canada Day to recognize his impact on Canadian baseball.
The four-time all-star was born in Toronto and raised in Montreal. Martin played 1,693 big-league games over 14 seasons before retiring last month.