BOSTON -- The Toronto Blue Jays aren't only affecting the AL East race, they're trying to make their own playoff chase.
Late-season call up Travis Snider homered, doubled and drove in five runs, leading A.J. Burnett and the Blue Jays over the Boston Red Sox 8-1 on Saturday in the first game of a day-night doubleheader.Toronto, rebounding from a 7-0 loss to the Red Sox Friday, has won 12 of 14 and moved within 6 1/2 games of AL wild card leader Boston. The Red Sox fell three games behind Tampa Bay in the East after the Rays beat the Yankees 7-1. Boston is still six ahead of Minnesota in the wild card chase, but has lost three of four.Burnett (18-10), pitching on three days' rest, held Boston to one unearned run on three singles in six-plus innings. He struck out six and left with an 8-0 lead. Staff ace Roy Halladay will also worked on three days' rest in the series finale Sunday."Why not?" Blue Jays centerfielder Vernon Wells said of the teams' thoughts in the race. "I don't think there's anyone in this clubhouse that knows the odds aren't against us. We want to make a run at this thing. Having two guys like A.J. and Roy, we have to go on another run like we did the last two weeks."Toronto, which swept Tampa bay last weekend, still has five more games left against the Red Sox.Burnett, 5-0 in his career against Boston, left with runners on first and second after second baseman Joe Inglett dropped a throw for an error on a play that would have been a forceout."We had a little bump last night," Burnett said. "We came in here just trying to make some noise."Leading 2-0 in the fifth, Snider, who started the year at Class A Dunedin and was recalled from Triple-A Syracuse on Aug. 29, homered into the Blue Jays bullpen off Paul Byrd (11-12). Snider hit his second homer after Rod Barajas and Scott Rolen singled.Byrd, making his fourth start against Toronto since August 9, was tagged for 10 hits and five runs in five-plus innings."I know I've faced them a lot, but I just didn't make the pitches that I needed to make," Byrd said. "Couldn't throw the ball away very well. It was up and then I just left some key pitches over the middle of the plate."It could have been worse for Byrd. The Blue Jays had two runners thrown out at third in the fourth -- Vernon Wells on Lyle Overbay's single, and Adam Lind trying to advance on his own RBI double.But it didn't matter the way Burnett was going, mixing his overpowering fastball with a hard breaking pitch."He has such an easy [looking] velocity, 95, 96, and then he's got that breaking ball," Boston manager Francona said. "It's almost like when you get runners in scoring position you have to pick one or another."Snider's two-run double off reliever David Aardsma made it 7-0 in the sixth. Snider scored on Inglett's RBI single.Pinch-hitter Kevin Cash drove in Boston's run with a sacrifice fly."We have managed to put ourselves in a situation where it's a `must win," Toronto manager Cito Gaston said.
The Red Sox informed the media before the game that LH reliever Hideki Okajia has made enough appearances to trigger his club option for next season. ... Jacoby Ellsbury stole his 46th and 47th bases of the season, third most in Red Sox history. Tris Speaker had 52 in 1912 and Tommy Harper owns the single-season record with 54, set in 1973. ... Overbay has 23 RBIs in his last 26 games. ... 2B Dustin Pedroia made a nice flip from his glove on Inglett's third-inning bunt. ... Burnett pitched seven shutout innings in his only other Fenway Park start this year, in a 3-0 win on May 1. ... The game was a makeup of an August 15 rainout.