At first glance, the decision Red Sox manager Alex Cora made in the 10th inning of the Red Sox’s 7-5 win Friday over the Toronto Blue Jays might have been a head-scratcher.
With the game knotted at 5 and Cavan Biggio on second, Cora had reliever Brandon Workman intentionally walk pinch hitter Rowdy Tellez to get to Eric Sogard.
It was a matter of picking a poison.
“It’s just a matter of matchups and it didn’t feel right against Rowdy,” Cora said. “He’s been great against us all season.”
But Sogard already had four hits on the night and another might have pushed across the go-ahead run.
Workman’s history against Sogard was limited, but favorable. Sogard was 0 for 3 against Workman for his career.
But Cora did some different calculus.
“We don’t take the 0 for 3,” Cora said. “It went like, ‘Well he has four hits, it’s hard to get five.’ ”
In a matter of three pitches, Workman made it 0 for 4. He got a ground ball back to the mound to get the Sox out of the inning.
“We took a chance with Sogard and we got the out,” Cora said.
The gamble paid off even bigger in the bottom of the frame when Christian Vazquez delivered a walkoff two-run homer, blasting a full-count slider from Jays reliever Jordan Romano off the roof of the Red Sox bullpen and sending his teammates streaming from the dugout to celebrate their fourth walkoff win of the season.
“I knew it,” Vazquez said. “I hit it good.”
The Sox picked up their eighth win in the past nine games, pulled off off their 23d come-from-behind win of the season, and upped their record at Fenway to 18-17.
J.D. Martinez went 3 for 5 with an RBI. Andrew Benintendi went 2 for 4 with an RBI and two runs scored. Michael Chavis went 2 for 5.
“We’re starting to play some good baseball,” said Sox starter Chris Sale. “We’re finally getting back to things that make us successful. The confidence has always been there, but you feel it a little bit more now.”
The Jays jumped on Sale early. Sogard started off the game with a single. Sale got Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to line out and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. to fly out, but got himself in a jam when he walked Teoscar Hernandez and Randal Grichuk to load the bases. Freddy Galvis took advantage by shooting a single to left field that gave the Jays a 2-0 lead.
Sale had to work around more trouble in the third when Eduardo Nunez booted a ground ball from Hernandez to start the inning. Sale then left a 1-and-0 changeup over the plate and Grichuk launched it into the Monster seats for a two-run homer (his 14th of the season) that pushed Toronto’s lead to 4-0.
“I put us in a pretty bad hole early on and I think AC tapped me after the third or fourth inning and was like, ‘We’re going to win this game.’ You just kind of feel it,” Sale said.
The Sox got on the board in the bottom of the third thanks to a sacrifice fly from Brock Holt that scored Benintendi and cut it to 4-1.
Sale lasted just five innings. He gave up four runs (three earned) on seven hits, including the homer, with two walks. Sale’s streak of four straight starts with at least 10 strikeouts was snapped. He finished with eight.
The Jays padded their lead in the seventh on an RBI single from Grichuk that made it 5-1. Grichuk matched his season highs with three hits and three RBIs.
When the Sox needed a rally, down, 5-1, in the seventh inning, Mookie Betts provided the spark with a one-out triple. Benintendi singled to left to plate Betts and cut the lead to 5-2.
Xander Bogaerts kept the line moving with a double to center that scored Benintendi and made it a two-run game. Then Martinez stepped to the plate and stroked 2-and-0 cutter to center for an RBI single that trimmed the deficit to 5-4.
The Sox got the equalizer in the eighth, taking advantage of another one-out triple, this one from Jackie Bradley Jr. Out of the starting lineup with a hamstring injury, Rafael Devers stepped into the box to pinch hit and laced a single to right field that pushed Bradley across for the tying run.
The Jays have lost 12 of their last 14 at Fenway. They were 6-20 against the Sox going back to last season.
“We found a way to chip away and stay on it and just put really good at-bats together,” Sale said. “Our guys in the bullpen held it down. That’s why you never hang your head. Just keep fighting and do what you need to do and end up on top.”