Three flips of the calendar later, the Red Sox are still in first place.
The Red Sox capped off June with their 50th win of the season Sunday. They did so in dramatic fashion, which is fitting for a team that is now the focal point of Boston sports.
The Sox carried a 4-3 lead into the ninth inning, but Jose Bautista drilled a game-tying home run off the Sports Authority sign located atop the Green Monster. Toronto’s ninth-inning rally backed Boston into a corner, but the Red Sox did what they’ve done all season. They dug down deep and found a way to pull it out.
Brandon Snyder, who was making his first start as a member of the Red Sox, singled into right field and Jacoby Ellsbury walked. At that point, the Blue Jays turned to Casey Janssen, but the wheels were already in motion toward a Red Sox victory.
Shane Victorino hit a little chopper to first base that ate up Josh Th ole — who replaced an injured Adam Lind in the third inning. The ball rolled into right field, and Jonathan Diaz — who pinch ran for Snyder — came around with the winning run.
“A good series win, particularly how it finished – take the lead, give it back and we continued to scrap and claw our way to manufacture a run in the ninth,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “I thought the four-game series here we played very well. We had some moments from the mound that didn’t quite work our way but still you take three of four versus anyone, and particularly over the past month the way Toronto has played, this was a good series win for us today.”
The Red Sox appeared to be heading into a buzz saw this weekend, as the Blue Jays entered the four-game set as one of the hottest teams in baseball. But the Sox demonstrated the grit that’s become a hallmark of their 2013 season, and they head into July still riding high.
It seems like there’s a different hero each time the Red Sox show up to the ballpark, and Sunday was no different. Snyder, who the Red Sox called up on Tuesday in the wake of Will Middlebrooks’ demotion, hammered a two-run double in the second inning, robbed J.P. Arencibia of extra bases with a backhanded pick down at third base in the eighth inning and started Boston’s game-winning rally in the ninth inning. Diaz, who was called up on Thursday in the wake of Stephen Drew’s injury, scored the winning run.
The Red Sox have had a “next-man-up” approach all year, and that’s exactly why there’s a special feeling surrounding this club. Regardless of what’s been tossed in their direction, the Red Sox just keep clearing the hurdles.
“We understand where our challenges lie in terms of an opponent and what they might throw against us. And we do the best we can with the personnel we have to execute in key spots,” Farrell said. “But still, this is a very good team, a very competitive team regardless of who’s on the mound.”
The Red Sox own the American League’s best record, and they enter July a season-high 17 games over .500. Their 50-34 record marks just the fourth time in franchise history that the Red Sox ended June with 50 wins.
“We’ve been consistent. We’ve got a very deep team,” Farrell said of reaching the 50-win plateau. “It’s been well-documented those guys have needed days off and guys that have been missed for periods of time, there’s been some inconsistencies performance-wise. I think it just speaks to the overall depth of this team. It’s certainly not a milestone by any means. We’ve got a long, long way to go yet. But to me, that’s what it means – the depth of the team.”
The Red Sox have certainly exceeded expectations thus far. But while numbers are nice, walk-off drama is nice, and production from unlikely sources is nice, this team clearly wants more.
It was a difficult week for Boston sports, and that’s OK. The Red Sox, who are now on center stage, just served up a reminder that better days lie ahead.