Loss No. 9 would have been a tough one to swallow.
The Boston Red Sox snapped their eight-game losing streak Monday with a 4-3, 10-inning win over the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. It wasn’t before a disastrous ninth-inning collapse in which the Blue Jays scored three runs to tie the game.
Clay Buchholz, who allowed only two hits through the first 8 1/3 innings, loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the ninth. Jose Reyes sneaked a single past second baseman Dustin Pedroia and shortstop Brock Holt — the two collided in the middle of the infield, briefly shaking up Holt — and Melky Cabrera knocked a base hit into left field. Buchholz then missed with four straight pitches to Jose Bautista, prompting Red Sox manager John Farrell to call upon closer Koji Uehara, who has looked human of late after nearly two years of dominance.
Uehara forced Adam Lind to put the ball on the ground. He yanked a chopper to the right side that Pedroia fielded and tossed to second base for a forceout. Any thoughts the Red Sox had of turning a game-ending double play were erased by Bautista’s solid takeout slide on Holt.
Toronto’s big blow of the inning was delivered by Edwin Encarnacion, who made a bid for his 28th home run of the season. His deep drive to left field traveled beyond the reach of a leaping Yoenis Cespedes and plunked off the fence for a two-run, game-tying double.
Jaws dropped. Rogers Centre erupted. Twitter blew up. The Red Sox, a last-place team stumbling its way toward game No. 162, provided a perfect snapshot of their season-long woes. Simply put, it’s been that kind of year.
“Obviously, we were pretty frustrated that we gave up the lead there,” Holt said after the game. “(Buchholz) pitched a great game, he deserved to get the win. Unfortunately, they found a couple of holes there in the ninth.”
The Red Sox managed to flip the script in the 10th inning, though, thus avoiding a devastating fate that would have spoiled the several positives, including Buchholz’s solid performance, that surfaced in Monday’s win.
Holt reached via an infield single with one out. He then swiped second base — the call was upheld after a review — and third base to set the table for Cespedes. Cespedes, facing Aaron Sanchez with two outs in the 10th, was fooled by a 1-2 curveball but managed to stay back long enough to label a line drive into center field. The powerful Cuban slugger flat-out muscled the baseball into center for a go-ahead RBI single.
The Blue Jays put a baserunner aboard in the bottom of the 10th inning, but Craig Breslow finished the game to earn his first save since 2010. The Red Sox walked away from a baseball game victorious for the first time since Aug. 16.
“The most important part is winning ballgames, regardless of individual stats or whatever,” Buchholz said. “You definitely don’t want to go out there and give it up in the ninth inning, but our team was able to fight back. … All in all, take a lot of good out of tonight, but you want to go out there and win every game you start.”
All wins count the same over the course of a 162-game grind. And for a team with no playoff plans, another loss wouldn’t have been the worst thing in the world. But suffering a ninth straight defeat by virtue of an epic ninth-inning collapse would have been somewhat nauseating.