BOSTON -- At the tail end of a week unlike any in Boston sports, where the disappointment over a championship quest on ice and the regret over the breakup of a revered basketball team were trumped by the revulsion over a football player accused of murder, there were worse places to be than Fenway Park on a beautiful summer's night.
And a crowd of 36,383 that was loud, involved and committed was rewarded by another spirited effort by the most surprising team in town, one that absolutely no one -- not John W. Henry, Bill James, Ben Cherington, John Farrell, Pedey, Mazz, Mutt, Felgie, Dan-o, Dino, or anyone in the employ of a certain news-gathering entity in Bristol, Conn. -- expected to have the best record in the American League at the halfway point of the 2013 season.
And the Sox began the second half in a custom much like the first, jumping to a big lead -- 5-0 after four -- giving it back when Andrew Bailey gave up yet another home run, and then responding to the entreaties of the home crowd with a two-run rally in the seventh, Jonny Gomes breaking a 5-all tie with a bases-loaded single, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia drawing a walk to force home the final run in a 7-5 win.
Their second straight win over the Blue Jays, who had come to town winners of 15 of their past 19 games and bidding to narrow the gap from top to bottom in the AL East, put the Red Sox at 16 games over .500, a high-water mark better than any since the last day of the 2011 season, when they finished 90-72 and out of the money.
At their current pace, the Sox would win 97 games, surely enough to win them a place in an October tournament they have missed in each of the past three years. And a fan base that has been cautious to embrace that possibility is beginning to shed its inhibitions to embrace this team without reservation.
The fans were on their feet, unprompted, when Gomes, pinch hitting for Daniel Nava, shot a ball past third baseman Maicer Izturis for an RBI single off Jays reliever Brett Cecil to give the Sox a 6-5 lead. The old yard shook again when Saltalamacchia drew a bases-loaded walk off the fifth Toronto pitcher, Darren Oliver, for another run.
And the fans were vertical again in the ninth, when 38-year-old Koji Uehara made it three saves in three days, striking out two in another 1-2-3 ninth.
The Sox are now 31-8 in games in which they have knocked out the opposing starter in five innings or fewer. Friday night, it was Josh Johnson invited to leave early, the Sox tagging him for five runs on eight hits and two walks, the number of Boston baserunners matching the number of outs (10) Johnson was able to register.
That put Sox rookie Allen Webster in line for his first major league win in his fourth start, but the Jays strung together three hits, a walk and a sacrifice fly to score three times in the fifth, and a single, stolen base and sacrifice fly to make it 5-4 in the sixth.
Sox manager John Farrell dismissed Webster for Andrew Bailey, his first appearance since Sunday, when he was lifted after giving up singles to the only two batters he faced that day in Detroit. This time, Bailey seemed at the top of his game, striking out Jose Reyes and Jose Bautista to start the seventh, but then was taken over the center-field fence by Edwin Encarnacion, the fourth home run he has allowed in a span of five appearances and 13 batters.
He was relieved by Andrew Miller, who was credited with the win when the Sox rallied in the bottom of the inning. Shane Victorino and Dustin Pedroia opened the inning with singles off Jays reliever Neil Wagner, and after Cecil entered and struck out David Ortiz, the runners moved up on a wild pitch. Mike Napoli then walked to load the bases, bringing up Gomes, who delivered and is now batting .321 (9-for-28) with runners in scoring position.
The Sox have won the first four games of this nine-game homestand. The Jays, meanwhile, fell back below .500 (39-40) and are 8 1/2 games behind again in the AL East after an 11-game winning streak had drawn them to within five at the start of the week.