TORONTO – It may not have been the biggest hit of Whit Merrifield’s career, but his RBI single in the 13th inning Saturday may have been his biggest.

Merrifield’s self-described bunt scored Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and led the Blue Jays to a much-needed 4-3 victory over the Boston Red Sox to keep Toronto’s playoff hopes alive. Merrifield said the only comparable play in his baseball life was his line drive to win the College World Series for South Carolina in 2010.

“Tonight was good,” Merrifield said. “I mean, frankly, besides the outing I had in college to win the championship, that was probably the biggest success in the biggest game I’ve ever had.

“Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.”

An RBI triple by Daulton Varsho with two outs in the bottom of the ninth tied the score at 2-2 for Toronto (82-67) and a sacrifice fly by Bo Bichette in the 12th tied the score again. Guerrero hit a solo home run in the seventh.

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The victory put the Blue Jays a half-game behind the Texas Rangers and even the Seattle Mariners in the fight for the American League wild card. The Cleveland Guardians scored two runs in the eighth inning to beat Texas 2-1 on Saturday. Seattle hosted the Los Angeles Dodgers later that night.

The Mariners have the tiebreaker over Toronto with a better regular season record within their division.

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“At this point in the year, any win will be a good confidence booster,” Merrifield said. “Hopefully there will be some good momentum, but tomorrow is a new day, I have to wake up and come to the field.”

Chris Bassitt allowed two runs, four hits and three walks in 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.

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“If you don’t have pitching you don’t have a chance. If you don’t play defense, you don’t have a chance,” Bassitt said. “We have both and then you just have to have the right hitters at the right time and that’s the race.” projected that Toronto’s chances of making the postseason improved from 48.3 percent to 57.6 percent thanks to the win.

Rafael Devers hit a two-run homer in the sixth to back Chris Sale’s excellent start for Boston (74-75). Pablo Reyes hit an RBI single in the 12th inning.

Sale flirted with a no-hitter, but ultimately allowed one run on two hits, striking out 10 in 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.

Sale’s no-hitter ended in the fifth when Toronto catcher Alejandro Kirk singled with two outs. However, Kirk tried to turn the hit into a double and right fielder Alex Verdugo fired the ball to second for an easy out.

Devers opened the scoreless sixth with his 32nd home run of the year, giving Wilyer Abreu a 2-0 lead for Boston.

Bassitt completed the seventh to reach a new record 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 shy of his career-high, also last year.

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However, those personal achievements did not matter to Bassitt.

“We won the game,” Bassitt said with a shrug.

Guerrero cut the Red Sox lead with a solo home run in the seventh. It was Guerrero’s third consecutive game with a home run.

“He shows up on time, sees the ball early and swings well at pitches, which is what you want to do as a hitter,” Merrifield said of Guerrero. “When he does that, he’s hitting balls. Hard. Really difficult.”

Pinch-hitter Cavan Biggio singled in the ninth, then advanced on Schreiber’s wild pitch to put himself in scoring position.

Varsho drove him in with a triple to tie the game 2-2 and electrify the sold-out Rogers Center crowd of 42,276.

After two scoreless innings, Reyes came to the plate with one out and Verdugo at second as part of Major League Baseball’s new rules to speed up the pace of play. Reyes singled to center to drive Verdugo and regain the lead.

But Bichette responded in the bottom of the 12th, sending a fly ball to deep right field. Like Verdugo, Varsho had started the inning at second and scored on Bichette’s sacrifice to force another inning.

That set up Merrifield’s climactic at-bat, driving in Guerrero, who had started the 13th inning at second and advanced to third on a fielder’s choice by Santiago Espinal.

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ON COVER – 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.

&copy 2023 The Canadian Press


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