They sat through an hourlong rain delay, they waited patiently for the hits with runners in scoring position to finally come through, they rallied to erase a 3-1 deficit, but when the clock struck midnight the Red Sox were still in the middle of a game with no end in sight.
Long nights have been the norm at Fenway, but the 4 hours 59 minutes it took the Sox to get through another marathon was an extension of a taxing stretch straight out of the All-Star break.
In a 15-inning battle, they outlasted the Blue Jays on the way for a 5-4 win.
They were able to shut the lights out on the ballpark when Hanley Ramirez smashed a first-pitch curveball over the Monster seats for walkoff homer.
Even as the game stretched past 1 a.m., Ramirez wasn’t watching the clock.
“I just tried to look for something up in the zone,” he said.
The latest late night came on the heels of a 16-inning staredown with the Yankees on Saturday followed by a day-night doubleheader the next day.
Since the All-Star break, the Sox have played 67 innings — or 13.5 innings per day.
The win kept the Sox two games ahead of the Rays in the AL East, but they may have paid a heavy toll in the process.
“There’s a lot of toll,” Sox manager John Farrell said. “And it’s not just the number of innings pitched, it’s the hours on the feet by every guy that’s manning his position. I can’t even calculate it right now, I think we’re at 55 innings since Saturday or somewhere thereabouts. So that’s unique.
“But to the credit of our guys, we’re in tight games throughout. There’s high stress to pitches, high stress to plays. They’ve done an outstanding job to go through this stretch of four games that we’ve been through.”
Video: Ramirez’s home run
Before the game, the Sox made a string of contingency plans because to deal with the an overworked roster. By the end of the night, they exhausted almost all of them.
Brian Johnson was making a spot start for Doug Fister, who made a relief appearance in the Sox’s 16-inning loss Saturday. Johnson gave the Sox six solid innings, giving up three runs on eight hits with four strikeouts, weaving around trouble to keep the Sox in striking distance. But his night was long over before the game would be decided.
Mitch Moreland was supposed to have an off day. In the 10th inning, he was called on to pinch hit.
Xander Bogaerts, a late scratch due to lingering pain in his right hand, was only supposed to be available in case of an emergency. In the 11th inning, he had to run for Sandy Leon.
Hector Velazquez (2-1) was fresh up from Triple A Pawtucket, an insurance arm for a pitching staff stretched thin in recent days. He took the mound in the 12th and never left, pitching four innings of two-hit ball.
“It’s one of the differences in tonight’s game, particularly in a spot where you’ve got no margin for error,” Farrell said. “You’re pitching to put up a zero, and he did just that.”
The Sox jumped to an early lead on a solo homer by Chris Young in the fourth, but Sox had to dig themselves out of the 3-1 hole they fell into in the fifth.
It started when Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista shot a ground ball to the right side of the infield with Dustin Pedroia shading up the middle. That Pedroia was able to make a quick break to his glove side to even make a play on the ball was a testament to his range.
He tried to dive to smother it, but couldn’t get his glove down. He stuck his foot out to try to stop it from getting away, but accidentally kicked it deeper into right field.
All the while, Bautista was making his way around first trying to stretch two-bases out of a ground ball.
The play went down as a double for Bautista — likely the shortest double of his career — and Pedroia’s errorless streak remained in tact.
But it opened up a can of worms that ultimately put the Sox in a hole.
Johnson had already wiggled his way out of jams in the first four innings, but after giving up the leadoff double, he walked Russell Martin to make it first and second.
He got a fly ball out of Josh Donaldson, but was not as fortunate against Justin Smoak.
He left a 1-and-0 changeup hanging over the plate and Smoak smacked it off the Monster for a double that scored Bautista and tied the game at 1.
The next at-bat, Johnson tried to get away with a fastball away to Kendrys Morales, but Morales stroked it to right field for an RBI single that gave the Jays a 2-1 lead.
The very next pitch, Troy Tulowitzki reached for a changeup above the strike zone and lined it into left for another RBI single that stretched the Jays’ lead to 3-1, and once again the Sox were in a position of having to try to mount a late comeback.
Pedroia got one of the runs back in the sixth, blasting a 3-and-1 fastball into the Monster seats in left-center for his fifth homer of the season.
“Pedey, he’s been on such a run,” Farrell said. “He’s the one guy that consistently with men in scoring position he’s done a great job. Just an all-around big game from Pedey tonight.”
Pedroia went 2 for 7, tacking on a game-tying RBI single in the seventh. Young went 1 for 3 with his fifth homer of the season. Mookie Betts went 2 for 7 with an RBI single in the 11th.
“Neither team really could build an inning,” Betts said. “So credit to the pitchers. I think everybody was kind of just waiting around for that one swing of the bat and fortunately, it was us.”
Ramirez went 2 for 6. Jackie Bradley Jr. went 2 for 5 with a run scored.
The Blue Jays broke a 3-3 stalemate in the top of the 11th on Ryan Goins’s sacrifice fly off Brandon Workman, but the Sox answered with the tying run with two aboard and two out in the bottom of the frame.
Betts singled to right off Roberto Osuna, scoring Bradley from second to make it 4-4. Bogaerts got thrown out at third to end the inning.
Velazquez replaced Workman in the top of the 12th and got the Blue Jays in 1-2-3 fashion, but Mike Bolsinger replaced Osuna in the bottom of the inning and reciprocated with a 1-2-3 inning of his own.
Bolsinger struck out four batters in the bottom of the 13th, with Bradley reaching first on a wild pitch, as the Blue Jays righthander retired 11 consecutive hitters before getting tagged by Ramirez’s walkoff blast in the 15th.
The Sox were already averaging the longest length of games, playing an average of three hours and 20 minutes a night. This exhausting stretch has added to a taxing season.
“Playing all these long games, it’s going to be tough to stay excited and stay energized, but we find a way,” Betts said. “Every year, every good team is going to go through some stretches where things are getting rough, and we’re at that stretch right now. Luckily, we’re still winning games.”