TORONTO — The ball sailed directly over the visiting team bullpen in right field and into the bleachers. David Ortiz had done it again, his three-run homer in the sixth inning giving the Red Sox the lead in a back-and-forth game against the Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday.
First they looked up and then at each other. The relievers knew it would be up to them to secure what would be an important win.
“It was almost like, ‘Here we go boys.’ The game was in our hands,” righthander Matt Barnes said. “We had to shut that game down and put up zeroes.”
All the pieces of the puzzle fit. The untrustworthy and unloved Sox bullpen shut the Jays down over the final innings as the Sox came away with a satisfying 11-8 victory.
“This was about one guy picking up another,” manager John Farrell said.
Given the circumstances, this was the best win of the season The Sox took two of three from the Jays and lead the American League East by two games with 20 to play.
They were 6-3 on their road trip and start a seven-game homestand at Fenway Park on Monday.
Toronto is hardly finished. But the reeling Blue Jays have dropped seven of nine.
“Wins are wins no matter what. But some wins are different,” said Ortiz, who has 32 homers and 110 RBIs.
Once Ortiz gave the Sox a 10-8 lead, five relievers shut the Blue Jays down. Brad Ziegler started it by getting five outs. He carved up the middle of Toronto’s order striking out three of the six batters he faced.
“Ortiz, that was what he has done his whole career. It was kind of cool to see in person,” said Ziegler, who was obtained in July. “You felt the air get sucked out of the place.”
Fernando Abad entered in the seventh inning and got pinch hitter Melvin Upton Jr. to ground to third. Travis Shaw’s error put Upton on but Barnes came in and got Kevin Pillar to ground into a force.
Koji Uehara pitched a scoreless eighth. Craig Kimbrel walked Edwin Encarnacion to start the ninth but stranded him for his 25th save. The Sox used eight relievers in all and they allowed two runs in six innings.
Robbie Ross Jr., who got two outs in the fifth, didn’t even realize he was the winning pitcher until well after the game.
“I won by default,” he said.
There were 18 pitchers used in the game as the teams combined for 19 hits and 13 walks.
Toronto used eight relievers and they allowed five runs on six hits over 5⅓ innings.
The respective starters were equally terrible.
Clay Buchholz allowed six runs on four hits and four walks over three innings. He had a 4-1 lead going into the third inning and melted.
He loaded the bases with one out and walked Russell Martin on four pitches to force in a run. Troy Tulowitzki expected a first-pitch fastball, got it and hammered it to left field for a grand slam.
It was the first extra-base hit for Tulowitzki in 14 games against the Sox since the Blue Jays obtained him from Colorado in July 2015.
Toronto starter Aaron Sanchez gave up a three-run homer to Jackie Bradley Jr. in the second inning. When the Jays gave him a 5-4 lead, Sanchez coughed that up in the fourth.
Bradley singled with two outs and went to third when Dustin Pedroia doubled. Both scored on a single up the middle by Xander Bogaerts.
Sanchez was charged with six runs on five hits and four walks in 3⅔ innings.
Heath Hembree, the first Red Sox reliever, allowed a two-run homer by Encarnacion in the fourth inning. The ball nearly flew into a luxury suite on the third level in left field. It was his second of the game.
Encarnacion has 39 home runs and 115 RBIs. He will command a hefty contract in free agency, perhaps from the Red Sox.
Down 8-6, the Sox scored the final five runs.
Hanley Ramirez had a home run into the second deck in center field, his 23d of the season, in the fifth inning. Brock Holt walked and went to third on an error in the inning.
With two outs, two on, and Bradley up, Holt tried a straight steal of home against lefty Aaron Loup and was tagged out when the pitcher stepped off the rubber and threw to catcher Russell Martin.
With two outs and Bradley 0 for 6 against Loup, Farrell liked the idea.
“I had never tried to steal home before,” Holt said. “I thought I was going to make it.”
That left the Sox down by a run but not for long.
Pedroia and Bogaerts had one-out singles in the sixth inning. Toronto manager John Gibbons went to Joaquin Benoit to face Ortiz.
Ortiz had a grand slam off Benoit in Game 2 of the 2013 ALCS when the righthander was with the Detroit Tigers. This time Ortiz settled for a three-run shot.
“We’re somewhat in awe of what David is doing in this final run,” Farrell said.
Ortiz hit a changeup in ’13 and Benoit tried the same pitch this time.
“It wasn’t that bad. It was on the bottom of the strike zone, right where the pitcher wants to throw it,” Ortiz said. “I guess I put a pretty good swing on it.”
Holt walked and scored on Sandy Leon’s double in the seventh inning.
“Just trying to win every game and this was a good win for us. Obviously we can sit back and relax,” Pedroia said.
Video: David Ortiz home run