BOSTON – (Wire Service Report) – David Ortiz has made a habit of torturing the Toronto Blue Jays throughout his long distinguished career with the Boston Red Sox, so it seemed almost poetic he did so again to begin the final regular-season series of his career. The host Red Sox attempt to hold home field for the American League Divisional series and strike another blow to the Blue Jays’ postseason chances Saturday when the rivals continue their three-game set.
Boston (93-67) is honoring its retiring 40-year-old slugger with pregame ceremonies all weekend long and he responded in Friday’s opener with a tie-breaking two-run shot in the seventh inning to send the Red Sox to a 5-3 comeback win. Ortiz’s 38th home run of the season and his three RBIs Friday also gave him 62 homers, 134 extra-base hits and 192 RBIs in 249 games against Toronto – each the most ever allowed by a Blue Jays’ opponent. Toronto’s third straight loss enabled Baltimore (88-72) to pull one game ahead in the race for the first wild-card slot and Detroit (86-73) to close within one-half game of the second. One day after keeping Rick Porcello from notching his 23rd win of the season, the Blue Jays (87-73) turn to their own first-time 20-game winner in J.A. Happ to keep them ahead of the Tigers.
TV: 7:10 p.m. ET, MLB Network, Sportsnet (Toronto), NESN (Boston)
PITCHING MATCHUP: Blue Jays LH J.A. Happ (20-4, 3.20 ERA) vs. Red Sox LH Eduardo Rodriguez (3-7, 4.68)
Although his three-start winning streak came to a halt, Happ was brilliant once again Monday while yielding two runs (one earned) on six hits over 7 1/3 innings against the New York Yankees. The Northwestern product has already set a career high in wins and strikeouts (162), and he’s almost certain to do the same in WHIP (1.16, previous low was 1.23 in 2009). Happ fired six innings of two-run ball en route to a victory versus the Red Sox on Sept. 10 to improve to 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA against them this season.
Along with reliever Heath Hembree, Rodriguez helped set a major-league record in a no-decision at Tampa Bay on Sunday, combining to strike out 11 straight batters. The 23-year-old Venezuelan yielded one run across 5 1/3 innings while fanning a career-high 13 and has posted a 3.10 ERA in 13 turns after the All-Star break (as opposed to a 8.59 ERA in six pre-break outings). Rodriguez lost his head-to-head battle with Happ on Sept. 10 after permitting three runs (two earned) in six frames to fall to 1-3 with a 6.85 ERA in four starts against them.
1. Ortiz’s blast Friday tied him with Ken Griffey Jr. and Rafael Palmeiro for eighth on MLB’s career list with 1,192 extra-base hits.
2. Blue Jays RF Jose Bautista walked twice and went 2-for-3 with a two-run shot in the opener, ending a three-game stretch in which he struck out seven times in 10 hitless at-bats.
3. Boston 2B Dustin Pedroia had three hits Friday to give 201 for the season. In doing so, he joined Mookie Betts (212) as the fourth pair of Red Sox teammates to tally at least 200 hits in the same season.