TORONTO — David Ortiz sat at his locker and smiled as he watched teammates, some of them 17 years younger, enjoy a most unlikely victory against the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday.
Down by two runs and facing a first-place team in the heat of a pennant race, the last-place Red Sox scored five runs in the ninth inning and held on to win, 7-6.
Best win of the year?
“Probably the top,” said interim manager Torey Lovullo, who looked as excited as the players once the wild game was over.
Ortiz was a bit more measured.
“I wish we were in a pennant race, because that right there was a hell of a win,” he said. “But I’d like to win like that on my way to the playoffs.”
At 39, Ortiz is watching these final weeks of the season like a scout, hoping to see players who can form the core of a contending team before he retires.
“Every game is important for these young guys,” he said. “For me, things are looking better. We’ll see what players we get this winter, but I can tell you one thing: The future of this organization is bright because of these young kids.”
One of those young players, Jackie Bradley Jr., broke out of a miserable slump with an RBI double in the seventh inning and a two-run homer that tied the score in the ninth.
Xander Bogaerts, another young guy, was 2 for 5 with a home run in the sixth inning and a single that helped fuel the big ninth inning.
Rookie Travis Shaw was on base three times. Another rookie, Rusney Castillo, had an RBI single that proved to be the difference.
“We showed a lot of character [in] crunch-time moments,” Lovullo said. “With this environment, with this crowd, with the pitchers we were going against, it was very impressive. I think it will take everybody to the next level.”
With the Yankees winning, Toronto had its lead in the American League East trimmed to 3½ games. The Blue Jays are 9-9 against the Red Sox, something they may regret if the Yankees catch up.
The Sox had been 0-65 when trailing after eight innings, the Blue Jays were 73-0 when leading.
Red Sox starters Wade Miley and counterpart R.A. Dickey each allowed two runs before Toronto took a 4-2 lead in the eighth inning.
Red Sox rookie Noe Ramirez walked Josh Donaldson and Jose Bautista. Edwin Encarnacion then grounded an RBI single into left field.
Chris Colabello followed with an infield single that loaded the bases. Jean Machi came in and struck out Russell Martin before Kevin Pillar dropped an RBI single into right field.
Lovullo doesn’t have many good options out of the bullpen, but lefty Tommy Layne is one of them. He came in and got Ryan Goins to ground to second base. Dustin Pedroia fired to the plate to start a double play.
“Tommy Layne just charged right through it and did his job,” Lovullo said. “He saved the game; he saved the inning for us. He gave us a chance to play catch-up.”
Facing Toronto closer Roberto Osuna, Brock Holt led off the ninth inning with a double. Bradley then crushed a fastball 425 feet to right field to tie it.
“Felt good. I finally made solid contact,” he said.
Before an RBI double in the seventh inning, Bradley was in a 1-for-32 skid with 18 strikeouts and had gone 21 straight at-bats without a hit.
“Kind of sounds weird to say this, but trying to be too perfect,” said Bradley, who has nine home runs and 39 RBIs in 175 at-bats.
With two outs, Pedroia walked and Bogaerts singled. When Ortiz went the other way for a single to left field, Pedroia scored from second. The throw from Ben Revere was wide and Pedroia circled Martin to slap his hand on the plate.
Lovullo was holding his breath, knowing Pedroia has played only seven games since recovering from a hamstring strain.
“Great hustle by my boy,” Ortiz said.
Bogaerts went to third on the throw and scored on a wild pitch. Toronto intentionally walked Shaw and that was foiled when Castillo singled to center field off Aaron Sanchez to drive in pinch runner Deven Marrero.
The extra runs were important. Jose Bautista had a two-run homer with two outs in the bottom of the inning off Robbie Ross Jr. before Matt Hague delivered a pinch double.
Ross finally got the third out, the sold-out crowd of 47,415 groaning when Justin Smoak grounded to second.
The Sox are 20-13 since Lovullo took over Aug. 14. During that time, they are 8-7 against the playoff-bound Royals, Mets, Yankees, and Blue Jays.
The task now is to turn these worthwhile experiences into results next season.
“I want to win another World Series,” Ortiz said. “I’m day by day now and I want to see these kids keep going. To me, that is why this game was big. It shows what we can do.”