TORONTO — Whit Merrifield's RBI single in the 13th inning gave the Blue Jays a badly needed 4-3 win over the Boston Red Sox on Saturday to keep Toronto's playoff hopes alive.
Rafael Devers had a two-run homer in the sixth inning to back Chris Sale's superb start for Boston (74-75). Pablo Reyes had an RBI single in the 12th inning.
Sale flirted with a no-hitter, but ultimately allowed a run on two hits, striking out 10 over six innings. Relievers Josh Winckowski, Brennan Bernardino, Chris Martin John Schreiber, Nick Robertson, Zack Weiss and Mauricio Llovera (1-3) followed Sale to the mound.
Daulton Varsho's RBI triple with two outs in the bottom of the ninth tied the game for Toronto (82-67) and Bo Bichette's sacrifice fly in the 12th tied it again. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. had a solo home run in the seventh.
The win — which took four hours, one minute to record — moved the Blue Jays to one game behind the Texas Rangers and even with the Seattle Mariners in the wild-card chase, before those teams played later on Saturday. Texas visited Cleveland and Seattle hosted the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Chris Bassitt gave up two runs on four hits and three walks over seven innings with five strikeouts. Tim Mayza, Erik Swanson, Jordan Romano of Markham, Ont., Jordan Hicks and Chad Green (3-0) came out of the Blue Jays bullpen.
Sale's no-hit bid ended in the fifth. Toronto catcher Alejandro Kirk bounced a hit off the outfield wall for a two-out single. Kirk tried to stretch the hit into a double, however, and right-fielder Alex Verdugo fired the ball to second for an easy out, ending the inning.
Sale was the model of efficiency through the first five innings of the game, needing only 58 pitches. He had seven strikeouts in the first four innings alone.
Devers broke open the scoreless game in the sixth with his 32nd home run of the year. He launched a 93.7 m.p.h. four-seam fastball from Bassitt into the home bullpen, scoring Wilyer Abreu for a 2-0 Boston lead.
Blue Jays right-fielder George Springer laid out for a diving catch in the top of the seventh, robbing Masataka Yoshida of a likely extra-base hit. The sold-out crowd of 42,276 at Rogers Centre cheered the highlight-reel play, with Springer waving to fans when he got back on his feet.
Bassitt completed the seventh to reach a new high for innings pitched in a season with 185 2/3, surpassing his previous best of 181 2/3 with the New York Mets last year. His five Ks on Saturday gave him a total of 166 strikeouts in 2023, one away from his career best, also last year.
Guerrero cut into the Red Sox's lead with a solo home run in the seventh. His 24th of the season came on a 78.8 m.p.h. slider, the eighth pitch he saw from Sale in the at-bat.
It was Guerrero's third consecutive game with a home run.
Pinch-hitter Cavan Biggio singled to right field in the ninth, then advanced on Schreiber's wild pitch to move into scoring position.
Varsho then came to the plate and put the ball over Abreu's head in centre field, rounding the bases for a triple and driving home Biggio to tie the game 2-2.
After two scoreless innings, Reyes came to the plate with one out and Verdugo on second as part of Major League Baseball's new rules to quicken the pace of play. Reyes took a 99.3 m.p.h. sinker from Hicks to centre field to drive in Verdugo and re-take the lead.
Bichette answered in the bottom of the 12th, sending a fly ball to deep right field. Like Verdugo, Varsho had started the inning on second and scored on Bichette's sacrifice to force another inning.
ON DECK — Left-handed pitcher Hyun Jin Ryu (3-3) will start for Toronto in the finale of its series with the Red Sox.
Nick Pivetta (9-9) will take the mound for Boston.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 16, 2023.
John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press