Fenway Park was a few folks shy of a sellout when the Red Sox faced the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday night. That didn’t diminish the noise in the bottom of the seventh inning when Jonny Gomes came to the plate with the bases loaded.
The Sox had given away a five-run lead and the game was unexpectedly tied. Gomes, who had played once this week, was pinch hitting against Brett Cecil, a tough lefthander.
The crowd was on every pitch, the volume getting louder as Gomes worked the count in his favor. When he grounded a single into left field, the roar rolled through the neighborhood like summer thunder.
The passion is back for the Red Sox, who went on to beat the Jays, 7-5, for their fourth straight win. The Sox aren’t just a first-place team, they’re a fun one.
“I was a fan at one time, big baseball fan still,” Gomes said. “I wasn’t here last year and the year before. But I definitely understood maybe how the fans think. But I think this is a different ball club and with that being said, it’s a pretty exciting ball club.
“We’ve got power; we’ve got defense; we’ve got some prospects; we’re putting a pretty good show on in between the lines.”
Jarrod Saltalamacchia drew a bases-loaded walk after Gomes singled. Andrew Miller was the winner with new closer Koji Uehara getting his third save in as many nights. He has not allowed a run in his last 8⅔ innings, putting two runners on base and striking out 14.
Uehara, the game’s most excitable 38-year-old, came off the mound after the final out like he wanted to high-five all 36,383 fans.
And why not? The 49-33 Sox are 16 games over .500 for the first time since the end of the 2011 season. They have the best record in the American League and have won eight of their last nine at Fenway.
“It’s great,” Uehara said. “It really is.”
The rally in the seventh inning started when Shane Victorino and Dustin Pedroia singled against Neil Wagner. Cecil struck out David Ortiz before Mike Napoli walked to load the bases.
Gomes pinch hit for Daniel Nava. The .211 hitter was actually the perfect choice for Farrell.
Gomes had reached base six times in 14 plate appearances as a pinch hitter this season. He also was a .296 hitter with runners in scoring position and 4 for 7 in his career against Cecil.
“I was kind of thinking about that at 2 o’clock in the afternoon when I got here,” Gomes said.
Gomes got ahead, 3 and 1, before he hit the ball in the shortstop hole, the ball getting under the glove of diving third baseman Maicer Izturis.
“It scared me for a second. But once it got through, it was all right,” Gomes said.
Napoli, a bench player early in his career, said the ability to come in cold and produce in a pressure situation is unique.
“I tried to do it and it’s hard,” he said. “You have no rhythm with your swing and you want to be aggressive. Jonny’s a pro. That was a great at-bat.”
Farrell liked the odds.
“One way or the other, felt like he was going to come through in that situation,” the manager said.
Blue Jays starter Josh Johnson lasted only 3⅓ innings, giving up five runs.
Stephen Drew had a two-run triple in the second inning. He hit a slider to the deepest part of Fenway, straightaway center just to the left of the triangle.
Colby Rasmus caught up to the ball and had a play on it. But the ball popped out of his glove before he ran into the garage door.
Jacoby Ellsbury singled and took second on a passed ball in the third inning. With two outs, the Jays intentionally walked Ortiz to get to Napoli.
He foiled the strategy with an RBI single to right field. Napoli is 5 for 9 with two homers, a walk, and eight RBIs after Ortiz has been intentionally walked this season.
Drew doubled off the wall in left-center with one out in the fourth inning and came out of the game with a strained right hamstring.
Drew said the muscle grabbed at him when he rounded first and sped up going to second.
“It tightened up real bad,” he said.
The Sox will wait until Saturday to decide whether a roster move is needed. Third baseman Jose Iglesias can replace Drew at shortstop. But that would leave Brandon Snyder as the only third baseman on the roster. He has one major league start at that position.
Drew hopes the injury will only keep him out for a few days.
“Hamstrings are funny. But I’m staying positive,” he said. “Maybe one or two games and go from there.”
Ellsbury had a two-run single later in the inning.
Red Sox starter Allen Webster, a rookie making his fourth career start, took a two-hit shutout into the fifth inning. The next two innings were rocky as Webster allowed four runs on four hits.
Still, Webster left with a 5-4 lead and was in line for his first major league victory.
That disappeared in the seventh inning when demoted closer Andrew Bailey was curiously called in to protect a one-run lead. He struck out Jose Reyes and Jose Bautista swinging, his fastball hitting 95 miles per hour during both at-bats. But Bailey left a fastball high to Edwin Encarnacion that was deposited in the bleachers in center field.
The Sox needed only a few batters to take the lead back in the bottom of the inning.
“We grind it out,” Gomes said. “Been that way all season.”