On a night when the American League East was up for grabs, the Red Sox asserted themselves in a 7-4 victory over the Blue Jays before a crowd of 33,638 at Fenway.
It was the 14th sellout and the largest crowd of the season. The fans got their money’s worth. Home runs. Stolen bases. Defense. Relief pitching. And a spot on top.
Coupled with the Yankees’ 3-1 loss to the White Sox, the Red Sox regained the lead by a half-game.
The Red Sox pounded 12 hits, including nine off starter Kelvim Escobar (5-8), although they were behind 2-0 before they faced him for the first time.
In the Toronto first, Raul Mondesi his a 406-foot two-run home run off Red Sox starter Pete Schourek. Mondesi, who came to Toronto from the Dodgers in the Shawn Green deal, is a star.
But so are Nomar Garciaparra, Carl Everett, and Brian Daubach. So is the Bull Crew of Hipolito Pichardo (2-0), Rich Garces, and Derek Lowe (Save No. 16), who followed Schourek with 5 1/3 innings of shutout ball.
The Red Sox came charging back in the bottom of the first. It started with a one-out single by Jeff Frye off Escobar. Frye moved to third on a double by Trot Nixon and both runners scored on a wall single by Nomar Garciaparra.
Then came the heavy stuff. Everett hit a two-run blast to center, his 22d home run of the year for a 4-2 advantage.
Daubach followed with his 11th home run, a line drive into the seats in center.
Nice to be home.
“On a night like this,” said Sox manager Jimy Williams, “You don’t know what is going to happen. When the game first started out, it looked like it was going to be an offensive night. But both sides pitched well after that. It was big for us to come back.”
After that opening volley, Toronto had a hard time coming up with key hits. The Blue Jays stranded 12 men. Twice Pichardo struck out Tony Batista with the tying run on third base.
“Today was very good for me,” said Pichardo, one of six Dominicans on on the Red Sox’ roster. “I had a good fastball and moved it around pretty good.”
The Red Sox’ recent road trip up and down the East Coast had taken its toll on the lineup. But fresh from a day off and two nights of sleep in their own beds, the rested Red Sox got back to business.
“It was a long, long road trip,” said catcher Scott Hatteberg. “Everybody was happy to be back because we had a day of rest. Now we have to get after them again. We have two great teams coming in.
“We have to perform well. If you’d told us in spring this was the situation we’d be in, everybody would have been very excited. We’re only half way through the season. There are only so much ball to be player.”
Garciaparra says it takes a team effort like last night to stay abreast with the other teams.
“It’s nice that we caught them early,” he said.” It gave our team confidence and we were able to shut it down afterwards. Our bullpen did its job and we appreciate it.”
The Red sox should have had more in the first but slumping Troy O’Leary, who was hit by a pitch, made a running error that cost the Red Sox. A single past short by Wilton Veras put O’Leary on second and both men advanced on a fly to center by Hatteberg. The throw went into the visitor’s dugout, allowing O’Leary to score and moving Veras to third. Or so it seemed.
Before the next pitch could be thrown, Escobar appealed to second and O’Leary was called out for leaving too quickly.
The Blue Jays struck in the third inning for two runs to cut the lead to 5-4.
The Red Sox scored two insurance runs in the seventh inning. Frye walked and, after Lance Painter relived Escobar, Nixon singled to left. After John Frascatore replaced Painter, Garciaparra singled to left to bring home Frye. Everett flied out, but Toronto manager Jim Fregosi went to his bullpen for Pedro Borbon. Once again the move backfired, as Mike Stanley, hitting for Daubach, singled to left to score Nixon.