Red Sox beat Blue Jays to keep pace in AL East

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TORONTO (AP)—A banner hanging over the Boston bullpen at Rogers Centre proclaimed it to be the home of the “Noodle Arm Club,” but those arms were plenty strong Friday night.

Jason Varitek drove in the go-ahead run in the eighth inning and four Boston relievers combined to throw three shutout innings as the Red Sox moved one step closer to a playoff berth with a 4-3 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays.

“That was a fun game to be a part of,” Boston manager Terry Francona said. “It’s a lot funner when you win.”

Boston stayed 1 1/2 games behind first-place Tampa Bay in the AL East and opened a 7 1/2 -game lead in the wild-card race over Minnesota and the New York Yankees.

A win by the Red Sox on Saturday combined with losses by the Twins and Yankees would wrap up at least the wild-card spot for Boston.

The loss ended Toronto’s chances of winning the AL East. Another defeat—or a Boston win—would eliminate the Blue Jays from the playoff chase altogether.

Manny Delcarmen (1-2) pitched one inning for the win and Jonathan Papelbon worked around his own error in the ninth to earn his 39th save in 44 opportunities.

Adam Lind opened the ninth with a single off Papelbon’s glove, then slid into second just ahead of the tag after the Boston closer threw wildly to first. Pinch-runner Brad Wilkerson replaced Lind and, after Scott Rolen lined out, went to third on Gregg Zaun’s groundout. Travis Snider ended the game by striking out.

“He tackled the first ball, but he was able to come back and make good pitches,” Varitek said.

Papelbon had given up four runs in his previous three appearances, but Francona stuck with him.

“Pap threw the ball well,” Francona said. “He had to. Once that guy got to second he really beared down and made some really good pitches.”

Red Sox relievers came in with a 5.93 ERA in the past 12 games, but kept the Blue Jays silent. Javier Lopez got two outs in the seventh and Hideki Okajima got Lyle Overbay on a fly ball to end the eighth.

“It’s big for us, right now, to be able to come in and pick each other up,” Delcarmen said. “That’s what we did last and last year we ended up winning. We’re in a good spot. Hopefully it just keeps going.”

Delcarmen won for the first time since Aug. 31, 2006, also against Toronto. He had made 122 appearances since his last victory.

Toronto right-hander A.J. Burnett came in 5-0 in seven career starts against Boston but took a no-decision in this one, allowing three runs and eight hits in seven innings. He walked two and struck out six.

Burnett threw a season-high 121 pitches and reached a career high in innings at 213 1-3, eclipsing his previous best of 209 set in 2005.

Brian Tallet (1-2) replaced Burnett to begin the eighth but left after giving up a one-out single to Jason Bay and walking Mark Kotsay. Shawn Camp loaded the bases by walking Jed Lowrie, then gave up Varitek’s RBI groundout, with Lowrie forced at second.

“I hit a nice-and-soft groundball to the right place,” a smiling Varitek said.

John Parrish came on and escaped further damage when center fielder Vernon Wells made a sliding catch on Jacoby Ellsbury’s sinking liner.

“We ended up walking some guys late in the ballgame, which you can’t do,” Toronto manager Cito Gaston said. “That’s nothing but trouble and it ended being the winning run.”

Toronto opened the scoring in the second when Rolen, Zaun and Snider hit consecutive doubles off Paul Byrd, who faced the Blue Jays for the second straight game and the fifth time in eight starts.

Byrd made three consecutive starts against Toronto in August, one with Cleveland and two with Boston. He allowed three runs and six hits in six innings, walked one and struck out two.

“That’s what he does,” Francona said. “If he give us six and gives us a chance to win, sometimes that’s good enough.”

Boston moved in front in the fifth, when Varitek doubled, went to third on Ellsbury’s bunt single and scored two outs later when Kevin Youkilis singled. Sean Casey followed with a two-run double off the wall in right.

“If you can get (Burnett) in trouble, you’ve got to take advantage of it because if you don’t, he has the stuff to just shut the door,” Casey said. “He left the door open a little bit right there for us.”

Toronto tied it at 3 in the bottom half when Joe Inglett singled and scored on Marco Scutaro’s double.

David Ortiz was doubled off first after a one-out walk in the seventh. He appeared to forget how many outs there were and jogged almost all the way to second on Youkilis’ liner to left. Ortiz eventually turned and sprinted back to first, but Snider’s throw beat him by a full step.


Toronto RHP Shaun Marcum needs elbow ligament replacement surgery and is expected to miss the 2009 season. … Boston 3B Mike Lowell will need four or five more days to recover from a sore hip. Lowell was injured fielding a ball in Tuesday’s loss at Tampa Bay. … Red Sox RHP Bartolo Colon, who left the team Wednesday and returned to the Dominican Republic for personal reasons, has been suspended without pay and is not expected to pitch again for Boston this season. … Ellsbury’s bunt single extended his hitting streak to 10 games. … Kotsay snapped an 0-for-16 slump with a two-out single in the fourth.

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