BOSTON (AP) -- Down by three runs with their playoff push in
trouble and the Yankees packing bags for a weekend showdown at
Fenway Park, the Boston Red Sox suddenly found themselves in need
of a late-inning spark -- and fast.
Sounds like a job for Big Papi.
David Ortiz saved the Red Sox again, pulling them from
desperation to delirium just in time for a crucial series with New
The Red Sox MVP contender tied the game in the eighth inning
with his AL-leading 47th homer, then singled home the winning run
in the ninth to give Boston a critical 5-4 victory over the Toronto
Blue Jays on Thursday night.
"The best thing that ever happened to this team was winning
this game tonight," Ortiz said. "Everybody was on their toes."
The Red Sox (93-66) enter their season-ending three-game series
with the Yankees (94-65) trailing New York by one game. Boston
would tie its rival by taking two of three, forcing a one-game
playoff Monday in New York, and would win the division with a
"It's going to be three Super Bowl games," Kevin Millar said.
"Whoever set the schedule this year is a genius."
Ortiz's homer was his 20th of the season that tied a game or put
Boston ahead, and it was his 11th in September.
"When you're out there playing, you don't think the game's
going to be on your back," said Ortiz, who leads the majors with
Boston trailed 4-1, and a loss would have dropped the Red Sox
two games back of New York in the AL East and one game behind
Cleveland in the wild-card race, which remained tied.
The Yankees beat Baltimore 8-4 Friday night for their 15th win
in 18 games, while the Indians beat Tampa Bay 6-0.
If the Red Sox and Indians both win two of three this weekend,
there will be a double playoff, with Boston traveling to New York
for the AL East tiebreaker and the loser playing the Indians for
the wild card.
Rookie Jonathan Papelbon (3-1) pitched 2 2-3 scoreless innings
for the win, and Manny Ramirez hit a two-run homer in the sixth off
Jason Frasor that cut the deficit to 4-3.
Ortiz homered off Vinnie Chulk leading of the eighth, and Miguel
Batista (5-8) allowed a one-out single in the ninth to Johnny
Damon, who stole second.
Edgar Renteria walked, and Ortiz lined a 3-2 pitch into the
shortstop hole as Damon easily scored.
As he rounded first, Ortiz raised both arms to the sky and was
mobbed by teammates. The crowd chanted "MVP! MVP!"
"The Yankees won. Cleveland won. So we've got to pull this one
out," Ortiz said moments after his winning hit.
After the homer, Ramirez walked and Jason Varitek singled to
give the Red Sox runners at the corners with no outs, but John
Olerud hit a shallow flyout, Bill Mueller struck out and Trot Nixon
hit a liner to right-center that Vernon Wells grabbed with an
outstanding sliding catch.
"We were going to make them earn it," Toronto's Gregg Zaun
said. "You're not going to hold guys like that down forever. Look
at the numbers they've put up."
Toronto took a 1-0 lead in the first against Matt Clement when
Eric Hinske doubled, stole third and went home when Varitek threw
the ball into left field for an error.
Doubles by Aaron Hill and Frank Catalanotto made it 2-0 in the
second before Boston scored in the bottom of the inning on Tony
Graffanino's double, Damon's single and Edgar Renteria's groundout.
"It was nice to get a couple of runs early and quiet their
crowd, but when Manny hits his home run, it was `here they come
again,' " Hinske said.
Catalanotto made it 4-1 in the fifth with his eighth homer, and
Toronto appeared headed to its 12th win in 18 games against the Red
Sox before Ramirez hit his 42nd homer.
Ramirez has 432 homers, passing Cal Ripken for sole
possession of 34th place. ... Ortiz has the second-highest season
home-run total for the Red Sox, three behind Jimmie Foxx (1938) ...
Boston reached 93 victories for the fourth straight year for the
first time in club history.