BOSTON — The Red Sox lost 93 games last year and did it in a variety of ways. You name it, it happened to that team.
That was last year.
The merry ride back into pennant contention has been full of contributions from all corners — some of them even on the other teams.
Sunday, on a day where Brandon Snyder drove in his first major league runs in just over a year, Toronto’s Josh Thole, a catcher playing first base because of injuries, botched a ninth-inning grounder, allowing the winning run to score in the bottom of the ninth as the Red Sox escaped with a 5-4 victory.
The win gave Boston a 3-1 series win and brought the Sox to 50 victories by the end of June for the fourth time in franchise history.
“Take the lead, give it back, we continue to scrap and claw our way to manufacture a run in the ninth,” said Boston manager John Farrell, whose new closer, Koji Uehara, blew the save on yet another Jose Bautista homer in the top of the ninth. “I thought the four-game series here we played very well.”
Thole, who signed as a first baseman before the Mets made him a catcher, entered the game with Adam Lind leaving with a back problem. Mark DeRosa was unavailable after tweaking his neck in batting practice. Manager John Gibbons could have moved Edwin Encarnacion to first, but that would have meant losing the designated hitter.
The strategy backfired.
Thole mishandled Shane Victorino’s bouncer, chasing pinch runner Jonathan Diaz home from second to give Boston its fifth win in the last six games.
“I’ve played first base, that’s what I’m here for,” Thole said. “It sucks. I’ve got to catch the ball and make an out.”
Sunday marked Thole’s second appearance at first base for the Jays this season. He did play it some in Triple-A.
The walk-off win took place after Bautista, who won Saturday’s game with a pair of late homers, ruined Uehara’s perfect save mark with a one-out solo homer.
With one out in the bottom of the ninth, Snyder, who doubled home two runs in the second inning and also made a nifty fielding play, singled off loser Juan Perez (1-1).
Jacoby Ellsbury walked and closer Casey Janssen relieved Perez. Jonathan Diaz ran for Snyder and scored when Thole booted what would have been at least one sure out. The run was charged to Perez, the first he has allowed after 15 straight scoreless innings.
Uehara (1-0) had retired all nine batters in saving games three straight days after taking over the closer’s role for the struggling Andrew Bailey, striking out six and getting the other three on grounders.
He got a break starting the ninth when right fielder Victorino made a sliding catch at the foul line, robbing Jose Reyes of at least a double.
Bautista hit his 25th career homer against the Sox, his 17th at Fenway Park.
Snyder had his first major-league hit since July 23, his first big-league RBI since June 26, 2012.
It was Family Day at Fenway, and one could make the argument this was the day Snyder became a true member of the family.
“These guys do a great job of kind of embracing you feel welcome,” Snyder said. “It’s kind of weird. I felt like I’ve been welcome the whole time.”
The win, the fifth in the last six games, allowed the Red Sox to finish off a 17-11 June that saw them in first place in the AL East from start to finish.
Ryan Dempster worked the first 5 1/3 innings and left with the lead having recorded his seventh straight start yielding three runs or less. He got the first out and he and Craig Breslow combined to get out of a bases loaded-nobody out spot.
Mark Buehrle went the first six for the last-place Blue Jays, who fell 8 1/2 games out of first place.
Reyes hit his second homer, Bautista had three hits and Rajai Davis two for the Jays, who went 17-9 in June, including an 11-game winning streak. Toronto went 2-5 on a seven-game road trip.
“It was frustrating,” said Gibbons, who downplayed the final play because of the other chances his team had. “That might be the most frustrating loss of the year right there to be honest with you because of who we were playing and where we’re at. I can’t remember that many opportunities.”
NOTES: Lind left with mid-back tightness. … Boston DH David Ortiz, a .358 hitter with three homers lifetime against Buehrle, was given a planned day off. … Ellsbury extended his hitting streak to 11 games. … Kawasaki made his big league 2B debut. … On Monday, Toronto returns home for a Canada Day game against Detroit, with R.A. Dickey hoping to even his record at 8-8. The Red Sox are off Monday before hosting a three-game series with San Diego. John Lackey pitches Tuesday night. … The Jays and Red Sox next meet Aug. 13 in Toronto. Boston leads the season series 8-5, with just six games left. … The Sox capped Kids Month, where locals accompanied the players out onto the field at the start of the home games, by bringing their own kids out Sunday. … Rain was supposed to be a problem all weekend and the teams made it through with just brief shower and some picture-perfect weather. … Long-time TV newsman Sam Donaldson was on hand for Skin Cancer Awareness Day. Free screenings were available.