Vizquel the difference in Jays sweep of Red Sox

Omar Vizquel hit the game-winning RBI in the top of the ninth inning to help the Toronto Blue Jays...

Omar Vizquel hit the game-winning RBI in the top of the ninth inning to help the Toronto Blue Jays sweep the Boston Red Sox on Sunday. (Fred Thornhill/Reuters/Files)

KEN FIDLIN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:37 PM ET

BOSTON - Omar Vizquel may be a shadow of his former self, but given one last chance to start at Fenway Park Sunday the 45-year-old future Hall of Famer did what he's been doing for 23 seasons. He delivered.

There haven't been a lot of memorable moments for Vizquel in his final season as a big-league player but he muscled a pair of sacrifice fly RBI's, including the one that made the difference in Toronto's 4-3 victory that completed a three-game weekend sweep of the Red Sox.

Playing the 87th game of his career at Fenway, Vizquel's moment came in the top of the ninth inning of a 3-3 tie after Rajai Davis and Anthony Gose had delivered back-to-back one-out singles and pinch-hitter Kelly Johnson had been walked intentionally.

Given one last opportunity to start at Fenway out of respect by John Farrell, the manager took it one step further by letting the veteran hit for himself in this game-changing situation.

"It was very nice for him to give me the chance to play one last time here," said Vizquel, who played his first game in Boston on May 23, 1989 with Seattle.

Vizquel looked at a strike and fouled off another, then hit a line-drive to medium left field, just as he had done during Toronto's three-run fourth. With the fleet Davis at third base, Scott Podsenik's arm was no match as he scored the go-ahead run.

"I had no intention to take (Vizquel) out," said Farrell. "He's good from the left side of the plate. He hits to the situation. He's looking for a pitch up in the zone and that he can hit for a fly ball and he did it on two occasions. There's trust in him in that situation."

The victory was Toronto's sixth straight at Fenway and puts a bit of distance between themselves and the last-place Red Sox, who fell to their 11th loss in 12 games, but just barely.

In the bottom of the ninth, the Red Sox threatened and Casey Janssen bent, but didn't break. After giving up a leadoff single to James Loney, Janssen almost served up a game-winning homer to Cody Ross, whose tall poke just curved foul. Janssen eventually struck Ross out on a full-count curveball on the outside corner, then got Jacoby Ellsbury on a long fly to the warning track in centre before Mike Aviles popped up to end it.

"We caught a little bit of a break when Ross hooked the ball foul and then (Janssen) came back," said Farrell. "When he uses the curveball in surprise counts, after establishing his fastball and cutter, that's when it's really effective. Everybody in the ballpark knows what Ross is trying to do there and he was able to freeze him."

Vizquel will get chances to start a few more games, at Yankee Stadium and Camden yards, for sure, as kind of a mini-farewell tour.

"There are a few things that are on the near-horizon for him in terms of his career numbers and how can you not pay that respect to a guy who has had such a tremendous career?" said Farrell. "He's closing on Babe Ruth (three hits behind him) in terms of number of hits in a career and I think it's only fitting that, as we go through this last stretch of the season, the places where he's played the most in, whether it's here or in New York or in Baltimore, he'll be on the field."

Vizquel has trouble getting used to people saying his name in the same sentence as Babe Ruth.

"It would be something amazing," he said. "Coming into this year I never thought that it was going to be close. That name wasn't on my mind. Now that I'm closer to him, it's an amazing feat. I never thought that a little guy whose bat was questioned for awhile, wondering if he could stay in the big leagues, get that close to somebody who has been such a legend for 100 years. It makes you realize how fortunate I've been in this career."

The Red Sox broke on top in the bottom of the second when Ross drew a one-out walk and Ellsbury drove him in with his third home run of the season to give Boston its first lead of the weekend.

That lasted only until the top of the fourth when the bottom of the Toronto order collaborated on a three-run rally. After Adam Lind struck out, Davis, Gose and Mathis all leaked singles through the Boston infield. Davis scored on the Mathis single, Gose scored on an Omar Vizquel sacrifice fly to left and then Mathis came around to score on Adeiny Hechavarria's RBI single to left.

Pedroia brought the Red Sox level in the bottom of the sixth with his 14th homer, a solo shot into the monster seats in left.

The Jays lineup featured a bottom four that would hardly strike fear into any big-league team. Gose, Mathis, Vizquel and Hechavarria all began the day hitting .233 or less but they were in the middle of everything, using the hit and run to leave some holes open on the infield.

"We had probably two of the fastest runners in the league in the 5 and 6 holes (Davis and Gose) so we could do some things and create some pressure on the basepaths," said Farrell. "More importantly, we were able to open up holes on the infield where some balls found some base hits."

In the fourth inning rally, Mathis's single went right through the hole left by the second baseman racing to the bag with Gose on the move from first.

"If we don't create anything," said Farrell, "that groundball Mathis hit was a double play and they're out of the inning."


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