TORONTO -- Both Yoenis Cespedes and Brock Holt were a few inches away from being ninth-inning defensive heroes for the Red Sox rather than suffering costly collisions -- Cespedes with the left field wall and Holt with teammate Dustin Pedroia.
As it happened, these were only temporary obstacles. Both men came up big an inning later, as Holt's 10th-inning single and two steals paved the way for Cespedes to deliver the game-winning hit in Boston's 4-3 win over the Blue Jays.
It was the kind of station-to-station, grind-it-out type of run that the Sox seemed to score at will during their World Series run last year, yet runs of any kind have been in short supply for the club during this difficult season. Given how Cespedes has been producing since joining the team, however, Boston fans should have hope that he can help turn the offense around in 2015.
"Cespy has been so good since coming over to us, getting RBIs in key moments, late-inning situations," manager John Farrell said. "Once again, today, with a game-winner. Whether it's been with a base hit or a long ball, he's been big for us late in games."
Cespedes now has 22 RBIs in 19 games with the Sox, and over all three of his major league seasons with Boston and Oakland, the outfielder has thrived in run-producing situations. Entering Monday's action, Cespedes had a career .868 OPS with runners in scoring position, and an .831 OPS with any type of runners on base.
Sure enough, he delivered again in the clutch against the Jays, an especially big hit given his team's circumstances. Already in the throes of an eight-game losing streak, it would've been easy for the Red Sox to mentally pack it in after blowing a 3-0 lead in the ninth.
Holt's one-out single in the 10th, however, gave the team new life, and he further capitalized by stealing both second and third base. Holt's aggressiveness in taking third clearly caught the Jays off-guard, and even left Cespedes a bit surprised in the batter's box.
"To be honest I was a little uncomfortable on that steal attempt at third, it kind of threw me off a little bit," Cespedes said via translator. "After that next pitch [a ball], I took a step back, readjusted, refocused myself and got a good pitch to hit right after that."
Cespedes' line drive to center field probably would've scored Holt even from second, yet the extra 90 feet made the run academic. Holt figured the extra base was his for the taking after a lack of attention from Jays reliever Aaron Sanchez.
"He wasn't keeping a close eye on me so I figured I'd take third too, maybe get a passed ball or something and score a run," Holt said.
His steal of second was challenged by Jays manager John Gibbons, but the call was upheld after review. Holt is now an impressive 10-for-12 in stolen-base attempts in his rookie season, not to mention going 7-for-8 on steals at Triple-A Pawtucket.
"It's kind of a confidence thing, base running. The more you're successful at it, the more confident you feel," Holt said. "I'm not the fastest guy but I can run a little bit. You've just got to trust your speed and if you can take it, take it."
An inning earlier, it wasn't clear if Holt would remain in the game after he and Pedroia ran into each other while both chased a Jose Reyes grounder up the middle. Trainers came out to check on Holt, but the shortstop was able to remain in the game and obviously wasn't much the worse for wear.
"I was playing a bit up the middle and he was playing a little to pull, so it's the second baseman's ball on that side normally but where we were playing I thought I could get to it," Holt said. "He had a tough angle and he was kind of cutting in as opposed to going straight out towards the outfield so he couldn't really see me coming. I tried to say something but it was too late. The ball was hit right between us so neither of us had time to stop."
Holt said he was fine after the collision, though he joked that Pedroia was now "1-0 against me... My ear hit his chest, so maybe I'll have one of those cauliflower ears like the fighters, make me look tougher than I am."
Cespedes' encounter with the wall wasn't quite as painful physically, yet it was more costly baseball-wise. With two outs in the ninth, Edwin Encarnacion blasted a long fly ball that nearly left the ballpark and Cespedes jumped to try and make the play. The ball eluded him and bounced away as the game-tying runs crossed the plate on what ended up as a double for Encarnacion.
It was a difficult fly ball that the confident left fielder felt was uncatchable.
"If I would've had a chance [at it], I would've caught it," Cespedes said.
Holt fared better against Encarnacion in the second, as the shortstop made a nice diving play to his left on a hard grounder and then threw out the Jays slugger at first.
Holt was making his eighth start of the season at shortstop (his natural position), though his calling card has been his ability to play all over the diamond.