Tuesday night’s 5-1 Red Sox comeback victory over the Blue Jays at Fenway Park began with a three-run rally with two out in the seventh. It was sparked by Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s home run to the Monster seats off reliever Jason Frasor that tied it, 1-1.
Ryan Kalish kept the inning alive with a pinch-hit double down the line to right off Luis Perez. It brought up Daniel Nava, who reached when he was hit by a pitch from David Pauley. Mike Aviles, who had walked nine times all season, drew a free pass to load the bases for Dustin Pedroia.
After getting thrown out at home plate in the sixth trying to score from first on David Ortiz’s double off the Wall, Pedroia came to the plate looking to atone. He did precisely that, delivering a sharply struck two-run single up the middle that opened the floodgates for the Sox. They added two more runs in the eighth, erupting for five runs on six hits (four for extra bases) in those two innings against the Toronto relievers.
“I’m just trying to have a quality at-bat and trying to get a run in,’’ said Pedroia, who is hitting .323 (10 for 31) with three doubles, one triple, and five RBIs in his last eight games. “I was able to find a hole and get two home. It was nice for us.’’
Pedroia’s hit helped the Sox (39-35), winners of six games in this nine-game homestand, pull out a victory that gave them sole possession of fourth place in the AL East by a game over the Blue Jays (38-36).
But it was an even greater turn of events for Pedroia, who “took my lumps there for a while,’’ hitting .133 in his first 11 games back from a torn muscle in his right thumb, which he suffered May 28 and forced him to miss six games.
“My thumb feels good, that was a big part,’’ said Pedroia, who gave a glimpse of that when he hit a warning-track out to left in his first at-bat. “I was switching bats, trying to find something that was comfortable for me. I think over the last 3 1/2, four weeks, it kind of healed up and feels normal.’’
Which meant it was time for the Laser Show.
“I think with Dustin getting the two RBIs with the bases loaded, seems like it’s been so long since he’s had that kind of opportunity late in the game, where he could win the game,’’ said Sox manager Bobby Valentine. “It presented itself and he drove the runs in. That really gives us strength.’’
Daisuke Matsuzaka, looking for his first win of the season (and the 50th of his major league career), gave up a run in the first on two hits and an error.
Brett Lawrie greeted Matsuzaka with a double off the Wall, then went to third on Colby Rasmus’s fielder’s choice. After Jose Bautista popped to catcher Saltalamacchia, Edwin Encarnacion ripped a hard shot at Will Middlebrooks for an single that scored Lawrie from third.
Middlebrooks misfired on his throw to first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, enabling Encarnacion to go to second. It was Middlebrooks second error in as many games after taking over as Boston’s third baseman following the trade of Kevin Youkilis to the White Sox Sunday.
It prompted a visit to Matsuzaka from Valentine.
“I just asked him if he believed in himself, if he was ready to go,’’ Valentine said. “[Asked] if he could kind of forget about the stuff that had already happened. He said, ‘Yes, yes, yes.’ ’’
Matsuzaka responded by getting Kelly Johnson to fly to left and Yunel Escobar to hit a hard comebacker that he handled for the final out of the frame.
“To only give up one run in that inning is good pitching,’’ Valentine said. “That’s his best effort yet.’’
Toronto lefthander Aaron Laffey was not to be outdone in what amounted to his first start in two years.
Laffey, who made 11 starts with Triple A Las Vegas before making his Blue Jays debut June 13 vs. Washington in relief of an injured Kyle Drabek, allowed Mike Aviles to reach on a leadoff single to left, then retired the next 12 batters he faced. He set down the Sox in order in the second, third, and fourth innings on seven groundball outs, a flyout, and a strikeout.
“He did a great job out there,’’ Pedroia said. “He was locating his stuff, keeping the ball down. We really didn’t do anything. He was great for them.’’
Laffey did not allow a runner to reach second until Gonzalez (2 for 4, 2 doubles, 1 RBI) doubled to left to lead off the fifth. But the Sox were unable to capitalize on the opportunity.
Laffey outlasted Matsuzaka, who departed with two out in the sixth, leaving runners on the corners for reliever Scott Atchison.
Atchison got Rajai Davis to ground into a force at second.
Andrew Miller relieved Atchison in the seventh with two out. With a runner on third, Miller (2-0) picked up the win when he prevented the Blue Jays from pushing across the run, catching Rasmus looking at an 82 mile-per-hour curveball for strike three.
Laffey, who threw six shutout innings of three-hit ball, wound up betrayed by his bullpen brethren.
After taking a 3-1 lead in the seventh, the Sox tacked on in the eighth, getting an RBI double from Gonzalez and a sacrifice fly by Middlebrooks.
“Everyone’s stepped in and played great,’’ Pedroia said. “We’ve had some injuries, but guys have stepped in and are producing like the guys that got hurt, so it’s big for us.’’Michael Vega can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.