Good to the last block

July, 5, 2011
7/05/11
11:46
PM ET
BOSTON -- With offense hard to come by for both the Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays, a timely defensive play and a little bit of luck ultimately saved the day for the Sox and preserved a 3-2 win Tuesday night.

With two outs in the ninth inning and runners on first and second, Toronto's John McDonald lofted what appeared to be a game-tying bloop single into shallow left field. With Edwin Encarnacion rounding third and heading for home, Darnell McDonald scooped up the ball and fired a bullet to Jason Varitek, who blocked Encarnacion’s left leg at the plate and applied the tag for the out that ended the game.

[+] EnlargeJason Varitek
AP Photo/Steven SenneJason Varitek is congratulated by manager Terry Francona after tagging out Edwin Encarnacion at the plate to end the game.
Upon further review, it appears that Encarnacion was safe; with his left foot blocked, the Blue Jays’ DH clearly kicked his right foot across the plate before Varitek slapped the tag on his leg. Luckily for the Sox, home plate umpire Brian Knight saw things differently.

"Tek gets the save there," manager Terry Francona said. "Mac made a great throw. That's not the way we drew it up, but it's a heck of a way to end a game."

Jays manager John Farrell had a different view.

“It was clear that Edwin did a good job sliding around the plant leg of [Varitek] -- his swipe tag missed him by no less than a foot,” Farrell said. “We should still be playing.”

Controversy aside, the fine play by McDonald ended an eventful inning for Jonathan Papelbon. The Sox closer entered the ninth with a 3-0 lead, but surrendered a two-run homer to major-league home run leader Jose Bautista. Papelbon recorded two outs but allowed the tying run into scoring position by giving up a single to Encarnacion and walking J.P. Arencibia.

“I pick up my teammates [some days], some days they pick me up,” an agitated but relieved Papelbon said. “Darnell is one of those guys that grinds it out every day, and he was put in a big situation and came through.”

The McDonald-to-Varitek putout marks the first time this season that the potential tying run has been thrown out at the plate to end a game.

According to Elias, the last time the Red Sox ended the game on a putout of the would-be tying run at the plate was on May 28, 2006, in 5-4 over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Current Sox left fielder Carl Crawford supplied the hit. One run scored on the play, but the Sox pulled off the win when left fielder Willie Harris gunned down Joey Gathright.

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