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Bautista belts 49th as Jays edge Red Sox

Bautista belts 49th as Jays edge Red Sox

BOSTON -- Jose Bautista did what he could to keep a firm grasp on the spotlight, offering another display of strength on Saturday night at Fenway Park. It was a big blast from baseball's leading power act, but in the end, it seemed more like a footnote.

Bautista's first-inning home run sailed out of the ballpark, flying over Fenway's famous Green Monster and landing on Lansdowne Street. In the wake of the Blue Jays' 4-3 win over the Red Sox, though, a handful of smaller feats -- a unique sacrifice bunt, a critical pickoff play, a clutch strikeout -- stood tall.

"This was definitely a team win," Jays starter Ricky Romero said.

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Cliche? Perhaps. But Romero spoke the truth.

By taking the first two games in this three-game set against the rival Red Sox, the Blue Jays sealed their first win of a road series since Aug. 13-15. Bautista has blasts in each of the games in Boston this weekend, upping his Major League-leading total, along with his single-season franchise record, to 49 long balls.

His heroics have helped the Blue Jays to a 75-73 record, matching in 148 games their win total from the entire campaign a year ago. Bautista's latest shot, which came on a 1-1 offering from Boston right-hander Josh Beckett, did well in aiding Romero's 13th victory of the season.

Bautista was not at his locker in the moments immediately following Toronto's win, but that was fine. It allowed veteran infielder John McDonald and backup catcher Jose Molina -- key figures within the Jays' victory -- a chance to step into the spotlight Bautista has dominated throughout this season.

"I'm going to do whatever it takes to help the team get the win," Molina said.

In the sixth, that included having the big catcher square around for a rare sacrifice bunt attempt. With McDonald standing on second base, Molina did the job well, sending a pitch from Beckett rolling down the first-base line. The ball hugged the chalk and Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Beckett watched and hoped it would roll foul.

It didn't and no one was keeping an eye on home plate.

"They forgot that," Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said with a grin.

McDonald had his eye on home, sprinting around third base and scoring easily to propel Toronto to a 4-1 advantage. That run proved critical in light of Boston's two-run rally in the home half of the frame, but McDonald -- always humble and softspoken -- downplayed his heads-up baserunning.

"Obviously, in that situation, you'd probably like the ball to go foul," said McDonald, referring to Boston's thinking on the play. "I think you have to give it that extra second. They did the right thing, but obviously it worked out in our favor that they tried to let it go foul. The play just kind of dictated it.

"I ran to third and I wouldn't say it was some great hustle play. It was just the way the play kind of plays out in front of you."

Gaston praised McDonald's effort.

"He did a great job on that," Gaston said. "They were just watching the ball, seeing if it was going to go foul. You see everything, man. You watch enough games, you'll see a lot of things happen."

Much like McDonald, Molina downplayed his key contribution in the ninth.

With one out and Ryan Kalish on first base for the Red Sox (82-66), Molina corralled a pitch in the dirt from closer Kevin Gregg. Kalish jumped a few steps too many off the bag and Molina made him pay. The catcher fired a bullet to first baseman Lyle Overbay, who tagged Kalish in time for the inning's second out.

Gaston did not blame Kalish for initially moving toward second base.

"Molina just happened to pick it clean and made a good throw," Gaston said. "I wouldn't be so hard on the kid. He was doing what he was supposed to do. He just got caught."

No big deal as far as Molina was concerned.

"It was pretty simple," he said. "The ball was in the dirt. Pick it up and throw to first. I got the guy. That's it."

It was a bit more that that, though.

One batter later, Victor Martinez used one of Gregg's pitches to put a dent in the 37-foot-high wall in left field and wound up with a two-out triple.

Adrian Beltre then grounded out, Gregg set a career high with his 33rd save of the season and the Jays escaped with the win. Molina's ninth-inning throw was integral in achieving that end result.

"To be able to do that in the ninth inning of a tight game is pretty special," Romero said. "That shows you what kind of player he is."

Romero (13-9) earned the win after allowing three runs on seven hits over six solid innings of work. Behind him, Toronto's bullpen held Boston's offense at bay. That included in the seventh, when lefty David Purcey struck out slugger David Ortiz with two runners aboard to end the inning and preserve the Jays' 4-3 lead.

"I thought he pitched great," McDonald said of Romero. "Not only him, but our bullpen coming in. David Purcey coming in in a big spot and guys just stepping in and doing their job. What Kevin has done this year has been tremendous for us.

"It's been a big lift."

Much like Bautista, whose next blast will put him in the 50 home run club.

His spotlight awaits.

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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