BOSTON -- Jacoby Ellsbury's little dribbler gave the Red Sox a happy ending to a very long day.
Blue Jays pitcher Scott Downs fell flat on his stomach while chasing the ball that went about 30 feet down the first-base line. The short single scored the go-ahead run in a three-run eighth inning as Boston rallied for a 7-5 win Saturday night after dropping the afternoon opener 8-1.
Toronto has won 12 of its past 15 games, but lost a chance to close within 5½ games of Boston in the wild-card race and remained 7½ behind. The Red Sox open a three-game series Monday night on the road against AL East leader Tampa Bay, which leads Boston by two games.
"Obviously, we know what's going on," Ellsbury said. "I don't think there was any more urgency. We try to win every game."
Jason Bay started the eighth with a double -- his third straight hit after an 0-for-13 slump -- and scored the tying run on Jed Lowrie's single. Lowrie took second on David Ross' sacrifice and third on Coco Crisp's ground out.
The speedy Ellsbury then tapped the ball down the line. Downs tumbled after taking five steps as Lowrie crossed the plate. David Ortiz then doubled home Ellsbury.
"It would have been a real tough play for him, a left-hander coming down the line" even if Downs hadn't fallen, Ellsbury said. "I saw him slip. At that point, I was hoping it would stay fair."
The ball stopped on the dirt inside the first base line, as Boston took its first lead since Toronto went ahead 5-2 with five runs in the second. The Red Sox had chipped away with runs in the sixth and seventh.
"When you're ahead and lose a ballgame it always hurts more than anything," Toronto manager Cito Gaston said. "Normally, with that bullpen out there, we usually can hang on."
Downs (0-3) was one of three Toronto relievers who entered the second game with ERAs below 2.00. On Ellsbury's hit, he reinjured the right ankle he sprained about a month ago. Gaston said he hoped Downs could pitch Tuesday.
The Blue Jays send Roy Halladay to the mound Sunday, hoping to split the four-game series.
"I think we had to win three out of four to get us back in it," Lyle Overbay said.
Dustin Pedroia went 3-for-5 with two doubles, giving him 200 hits and 50 doubles this season. The only other Red Sox players to do that were Tris Speaker in 1912 and Wade Boggs in 1989.
"Toronto was on a good streak and creeping up on us," Bay said. 'It was a huge win."
Boston took a 2-0 lead in the first when Ellsbury and Pedroia both scored on a wild pitch by Jesse Litsch. Toronto scored five in the second off Bartolo Colon on a bases-loaded walk to Travis Snider, a two-run double by Joe Inglett, a sacrifice fly by Marco Scutaro and an RBI single by Alex Rios.
Lowrie's sacrifice fly in the sixth and a forceout at second base in the seventh drove in the runs that cut Toronto's lead to 5-4.
In the opener, late-season call up Snider homered, doubled and drove in five runs.
Burnett and Litsch pitched on three days' rest. They each started Tuesday in Toronto's sweep of the Chicago White Sox.
Burnett (18-10) held Boston to one unearned run on three singles in six-plus innings. He struck out six and left with an 8-0 lead.
"Why not?" Blue Jays center fielder 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."
Toronto, which swept Tampa Bay last weekend, has four games left against the Red Sox, three at home.
Burnett, 5-0 in his career against Boston, left with runners on first and second after second baseman Inglett dropped a throw for an error on a play that would have been a forceout.
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.
It could have been worse for Byrd. The Blue Jays had two runners thrown out at third in the fourth -- Wells on Overbay's single, and Adam Lind trying to advance on his own RBI double.
"He has such an easy [looking] velocity, 95, 96, and then he's got that breaking ball," Boston manager Terry Francona said of Burnett. "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.
Colon made his first start since July 16. He went on the disabled list the next day with a lower back strain and was recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket on Tuesday. ... The Red Sox announced that reliever Hideki Okajima has made enough appearances to trigger his club option for next season. ... 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 past 27 games. ... The first game was a makeup of an Aug. 15 rainout. ... Byrd went for a walk outside the park between games.