The day started with the unveiling of the Carl Yastrzemski statue and ended with “Picnic in the Park,” which pretty much summed up the Red Sox’ 5-2 win over Toronto Sunday and their seasonlong excellence at Fenway.
It was also rookie dress-up day, as Sox newbies donned Scottish kilts on their sojourn to Denver, where the team will begin the final road trip of the regular season.
The Red Sox have won 95 games and hold a 1½-game lead over Oakland for the best record in the American League, which would ensure home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
The Red Sox remain in good position to be that top team, but the schedule may favor the A’s, who play the Angels in an upcoming series.
If the Sox and A’s should finish tied, the first tiebreaker, head-to-head competition, is moot as the Sox and A’s finished 3-3 in the regular season.
The second tiebreaker is the highest winning percentage in intradivision play. Again it is very close. The Sox were 43-30 (.589) after Sunday’s win while the A’s are 41-29 (.586).
The Red Sox are trying to make certain it doesn’t come to those, or even other, tiebreaking scenarios. They hope to win the league outright and then face the wild-card playoff winner, which currently would be either Tampa Bay or Cleveland.
The Sox finished the regular season with a 53-28 home record, the best in baseball.
“Any time we can play in this ballpark in front of our fans and the energy that creates here and the way we embrace it. . . it’s reflected by the home record,” manager John Farrell said. “We’ve heard a lot lately about the last two Septembers and that’s never penetrated our clubhouse. We’ve almost picked it up a notch in September the way we’ve played.”
The Sox avoided the wild-card scenario by winning the division with something to spare, and now Farrell is doing a balancing act of trying to give his veterans rest while trying to win. Which is why it was so huge that rookie Jackie Bradley Jr. stroked a three-run homer into the right field bleachers in the second inning off knuckleballer R.A. Dickey to give Boston a 4-1 lead.
Bradley, who was almost a daily story in spring training, said he didn’t think he got all of it but thought the wind to right would help, and it did.
“See it up and take a good swing at it,” he said. “I saw a pitch I can handle and I tried to take advantage of it with guys on base. I was able to get it airborne and let the wind do the rest. I said, ‘Man, please keep going.’ ”
Bradley said that learning big league life during his three stints with the big club this season was invaluable.
“Yeah, I mean, I’m learning and that’s the main thing,” he said. “I felt I’m getting better whether it’s mentally or physically. Just be professional every single day. You have to be ready to play, come in if you’re not in the starting lineup. Come in and be able to help out any way you can.”
David Ortiz hit his 29th homer, a solo shot in the sixth. Ryan Lavarnway, who started behind the plate, drove in the first run in the second inning and has hit safely in nine straight games.
Starter Felix Doubront, who recently had been taken out of the starting rotation with the return of Clay Buchholz, was efficient.
The Red Sox like his arm and his potential and loved the 16-start boost he gave them in the middle of the season, but as Farrell pointed out, Doubront still lacks the stamina to make it through a full season. He’s now 11-6 and as the manager put it, “You just think there’s more in there.”
Doubront gave the Sox seven innings, allowing two runs in his first start since Sept. 6. He had a 3.84 ERA in 15 starts at home. He made 27 starts on the season, but even with his fine performance Sunday there’s no guarantee Doubront will make the postseason roster.
Koji Uehara earned his 21st save with a scoreless ninth inning.
And it all ended in 2:13, the shortest nine-inning game at Fenway this season.Nick Cafardo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.