BOSTON — There were moments Friday when it was easy to forget the Red Sox are a last-place team.
The Red Sox rallied from two major deficits in their series opener against the Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park to win a 9-8, 10-inning, walk-off thriller. Yoenis Cespedes led the charge and delivered the game-winning hit, though it was Boston?s youth that helped serve up the hard-fought victory.
The Red Sox entered the bottom of the eighth inning trailing 6-3. Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion had helped the Blue Jays seize control with a pair of two-run homers — each slugger?s 30th of the season — and it looked like Boston was primed for its 80th loss of 2014.
Scratching and clawing quickly ensued.
Cespedes, who finished the game with four hits and two RBIs, singled into right field. Mike Napoli followed with a ground ball up the middle that Jose Reyes stopped and flipped to second base for a bang-bang play. Cespedes was ruled safe, putting the wheels in motion for a big inning.
Napoli and Cespedes executed a perfect double steal with one out and Mookie Betts batting. Betts made it count by lining a single into left field that scored Cespedes and cut the deficit to two runs.
Xander Bogaerts, who is beginning to make tremendous strides at the plate, lined a sizzler into the right-center field gap. Napoli scored easily and Betts motored all the way around from first base as Bogaerts cruised into second with a two-run, game-tying double. It was a gratifying knock for Bogaerts, whose season has been marred by offensive inconsistency.
Toronto struck for two runs in the 10th inning in rather strange fashion, again pushing Boston to the brink of defeat.
Pitcher Marcus Stroman, who has completely shut down the Red Sox this season, decided that dominating on the mound wasn?t enough. He pinch-ran for Encarnacion, advanced to third base on John Mayberry?s double and scored on Dioner Navarro?s soft liner over the mound.
Mayberry then extended Toronto?s lead to 8-6 by tagging up and scoring from second base — yes, second base — when Allen Craig inexplicably lost track of how many outs there were following a catch in right field.
The game had “2014” written all over it. Close but no cigar. Heartbreaking. You name it. Only the Red Sox weren?t done scratching and clawing.
Betts and Bogaerts started the bottom of the 10th inning with back-to-back singles. Red Sox manager John Farrell then called for a sacrifice bunt with Christian Vazquez batting and received much more than he bargained for. Vazquez showed tremendous awareness and pushed the ball past charging first baseman Juan Francisco for a bunt single that loaded the bases.
Will Middlebrooks, who was in the game because Brock Holt left with an illness, pulled Boston back to within one with a single into left field. Dustin Pedroia, playing in his first game since suffering a concussion last weekend against the Tampa Bay Rays, tied the score 8-8 with a sacrifice fly into left-center field that Blue Jays rookie Kevin Pillar opted not to throw home, for whatever reason.
The game probably could have ended one batter later when Tolleson?s flip to second base on David Ortiz?s ground ball kicked away from Jose Reyes, but Jemile Weeks, who pinch-ran for Vazquez, stopped at third base following a poor read. It really didn?t matter in the end, though, because Cespedes — a guy with a knack for producing key hits since joining the Sox — waited in the wings.
Cespedes worked a full count against Casey Janssen before crushing a fly ball into the triangle that plated Weeks with the game-winning run. It marked the Red Sox?s fifth walk-off win of the season and their first victory over the Blue Jays at Fenway Park in seven chances.
The Red Sox received contributions from all over the place while snatching the series opener from the jaws of defeat. The effort was spearheaded by a host of players who could play a pivotal role in elevating Boston out of the American League East basement in 2015.