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Sunday, September 22, 2013
Rapid Reaction: Red Sox 5, Blue Jays 2

By Tony Lee, Special to ESPNBoston.com

BOSTON -- The Red Sox finish an American League-best 53-28 at home with a 5-2 win over the Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday in the Fenway Park finale (at least until the playoffs).

The victory gives Boston a two-game lead in the race for the best record in the AL, pending Oakland’s result later Sunday. The mission to lock up that one final piece of the puzzle continues Tuesday in the first of two games at Colorado.

Felix Doubront, in his last start of the season and perhaps his last appearance overall pending some postseason roster decisions, allowed two runs on four hits in seven innings. Jackie Bradley Jr. hit a three-run homer and David Ortiz a solo shot to provide the bulk of the offense for the Sox, who became the 17th team in franchise history to reach 95 wins.

A few lingering thoughts from the final home game of the regular season:

Odd man out?: Ryan Dempster is clearly a member of the bullpen now. The club will only keep 11 pitchers in the first round of the playoffs, and that transition has already begun for Dempster. There are several other certainties for the pen and very little time remaining for Doubront to begin his transition. It is quite possible that his solid outing Sunday was his last of the season (or maybe he is revived in a potential ALCS).

While John Farrell has yet to commit to any plans surrounding Doubront, it makes sense to keep things up in the air. Farrell has quite the stable of quality veterans in his rotation but there is a week left and you never know when a line drive catches one starter on a finger and another strains his calf covering first base on the back end of a double play. Doubront may just be put to the side in the unlikely event that a fill-in is needed in October, and it behooves Farrell to keep him on a regular routine through the week, at least.

Jumpin’ Jack: With Jacoby Ellsbury on the sideline and Mike Napoli resting a sore foot, which requires either Daniel Nava or Mike Carp to slide to first base, Bradley is getting his opportunities in center field. He made the most of it Sunday with the game’s decisive blow, a three-run homer in the second inning.

Bradley also tracked down a handful of balls in center, including one where he had to avoid a collision with Shane Victorino. This gave us scribes a chance to write “8” in our scorecard a handful of times. Quite fitting, on the day the organization celebrated the original No. 8, Carl Yastrzemski.

Koji time: There is absolutely no cause for concern with Koji Uehara’s performance, and he shows no signs of slowing down. However, you have to think that Farrell would love a few more blowouts in the final week so he can spare his closer.

Uehara tossed another effortless 1-2-3 ninth for his 21st save. He is up to 72 1/3 innings in 71 games, both career highs. Of course, the efficiency of these outings has made his whole season so stress-free, which allows Farrell to go to him without hesitation more often. Uehara is up to 99 strikeouts against nine walks. Just phenomenal.

Yaz: It was a strike thrown from Yastrzemski to David Ortiz for the ceremonial first pitch. And it was a home run the Red Sox organization hit by erecting a statue for Yaz outside Fenway Park, which was displayed prior to the game. It depicts Yaz doffing his cap in a salute to fans prior to his final at-bat Oct. 2, 1983.

Had a friend who was among those fortunate enough to get a handshake from Yaz as he made a triumphant lap around the park that day. Still not sure if said friend has washed that hand. His impact on prior generations of Red Sox fans was immense.

And S-T-R-Z remains the best run of consonants in the language. The Red Sox language, at least.

Milestone watch: With his solo homer in the sixth, Ortiz moved to the precipice of a few notable numbers. He is one home run shy of reaching 30 for the first time since 2010 and only the second time since 2007. The slugger also needs two RBI to reach 100 for the seventh time in his career.

Ortiz’s next home run will be the 431st of his career, which would tie him with Cal Ripken Jr. for 45th on the all-time list.

Time of game: This was the ultimate example of “getaway day,” a phenomenon which often sees players who are itching to get on the plane and get out of town speed things up a bit, whether by swinging away or choosing not to walk to Dorchester and back between pitches.

While Boston gets a day off before beginning a series in Colorado on Tuesday, Toronto has a stretch that seem it race to Chicago to play a meaningless makeup game with the White Sox before heading to Baltimore for three games beginning Tuesday. A good time for the Jays to get out of town early.

Sunday’s contest was over in 2 hours, 13 minutes. That is the second-fastest nine-inning affair for Boston and the fifth-fastest of the season for Toronto.

Up next: John Lackey gets the nod for Boston in the opener against the Rockies. It is an 8:40 p.m. ET start Tuesday night. Jake Peavy will pitch Wednesday.