TORONTO — Rick Porcello was at 80 pitches after six efficient innings of one-run ball Wednesday night, but Red Sox manager Alex Cora elected to take him out of the game against the Blue Jays because he felt he had a good plan for the bullpen.
Safe to say the idea was not for five relievers to navigate through seven more innings until Michael Chavis hit a game-winning home run in the 13th and Heath Hembree held on to get out No. 39 for the win at 11:37 p.m. Still, Cora will gladly take the 6-5 result.
“We got the ‘W’ and we move on,” said Cora. “Come here tomorrow and try to take 3 out of 4 and go to Houston. It wasn’t easy.”
Chavis’ game-winner came on a cutter that hung near the middle of the strike zone and landed beyond the centerfield wall. Chavis said he’d been thinking home run in the 11th inning when he grounded out, but that he was just trying to put a good swing on the ball in the 13th.
“In the previous at-bat, I was definitely just trying to hit a home run,” Chavis said. “Going into that at-bat, I was still trying to do damage. But I just wasn’t exactly sitting there like I was trying to hit a home run this time.”
Chavis’ was the sixth home run of the game and the third in extra innings. In the 12th, it seemed like Mookie Betts might have been the one to get the game-winner when he sent a 3-1 pitch from Joe Biagini into the mostly-empty seats above centerfield but Rowdy Tellez answered for Toronto with a solo homer in the bottom of the inning.
“Great win for us,” Porcello said. “Guys kept battling. The way our offense kept responding, we had a tough time closing it out but they kept on putting good swings on balls.”
Porcello was sharp, going six innings and giving up just 3 hits and 1 run with 4 strikeouts. In his last seven starts, Porcello has a 2.78 ERA.
But given that his last start ended poorly when Cora kept him in too long against the Astros, he had a relatively quick hook Wednesday night that, for a moment, seemed like it might wind up being equally costly.
Brandon Workman entered the game in the bottom of the seventh with a 3-1 lead, then got in a bases-loaded jam with two outs and walked in a run with the top of the batting order coming up. He avoided further damage when Eric Sogard grounded out with Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who’d already homered off Porcello, looming on deck.
“[Porcello] comes from a tough one – seven innings, grind it out – and I felt like with the point they were in the lineup it was a good matchup for [Workman], two lefties coming out so we decided to go that route,” Cora said.
Both teams traded solo homers in the eighth, with Rafael Devers smoking one to left field for Boston and Justin Smoak knocking one to right off Matt Barnes.
Devers has now homered in three consecutive games, making him the sixth player in team history with a three-game home run streak at age 22 or younger. The others are Ted Williams, Babe Ruth, Carl Yastrzemski, Rico Petrocelli and Jim Tabor.
Leading by a run, the Red Sox sent in Marcus Walden to pitch the ninth. He gave up a double to Brandon Drury, who moved to third when Billy McKinney grounded out, then scored the tying run when pinch hitter Danny Jansen singled to right.
“We thought we had everything lined up going seven, eight, nine,” Cora said. “It didn’t work out but the guys kept fighting, grinding.”
Walden hung on in the 10th despite loading the bases with one out and Ryan Brasier pitched a scoreless 11th before the home run trading game began anew in the 12th.
The Red Sox and Blue Jays play the final game of the four-game series at 12:37 p.m. Thursday, exactly 13 hours after the final out Wednesday night. Bleary-eyed as it may make them, Porcello said the extra-innings victory was an important one.
“We’ve been fighitng all year and this was a big win for us,” Porcello said. “We’ve got a chance to win the series tomorrow and that’s what we need to do.
“We need to fight every single night, every game we play we’ve got to fight to win. Talent and those things aren’t going to put us ahead of the opponent, we’ve got to go ahead and earn it and we definitely did that tonight.”