TORONTO — It was the fourth game of the season for both teams, just a few steps down a long road. But the atmosphere at Rogers Centre on Friday night made it feel like something so much more.
An angry throng of 45,328 filled nearly every seat of the usually placid dome to heckle and boo Red Sox manager John Farrell, the man who had the temerity to abandon their team last fall to return to Boston.
But it was Farrell who walked away smiling, his team drawing on the energy in the building to help fuel a 6-4 victory.
“You get those little goose bumps going to the plate with the house going crazy. That’s a quick character check,” said Jonny Gomes, who scored the go-ahead run in the eighth inning. “We’re starting to be tight-knit. Go booing any of our guys, we’ve got your back. Go booing our manager, we’ve got your back.”
With the score 4-4 in the eighth, Farrell sent up Gomes to hit for Daniel Nava against Toronto reliever Brett Cecil. The lefthander had struck out four of the six batters he faced to that point.
Because Gomes hits lefthanders well, Farrell expected Blue Jays manager John Gibbons to bring in righthander Esmil Rogers. That was fine with him.
“I was wanting that matchup versus Cecil versus Nava in that situation,” Farrell said. “I’d rather have the righthander in the game than the lefthander.”
It worked. Gomes walked on five pitches and ended up on third base when Dustin Pedroia doubled to center.
Mike Napoli, who earlier had belted a two-run homer, hit a hard ground ball to third base. Maicer Izturis fielded the ball on his knees and did not have a play at the plate.
The Sox added another run in the ninth inning when Will Middlebrooks lined a solo home run to left field off Jeremy Jeffress.
When Joel Hanrahan finished off Toronto for this second save, the 3-1 Red Sox had a victory from which they took a lot of satisfaction.
“It’s a great atmosphere, great game,” Farrell said. “For those who maybe only see our dugout on TV, the energy that’s in there, the amount of positive comments, guys pulling for one another — this is a very good group that’s coming together pretty darned quick.”
The Sox won despite going 2 for 19 with runners in scoring position and leaving 15 runners on base. They collected 12 hits and six walks off four Toronto pitchers, putting runners in scoring position every inning but the third.
“We missed some chances. But we kept coming,” Napoli said.
Napoli gave the Sox a 4-1 lead in the fifth inning with a two-run homer off Blue Jays starter Josh Johnson. With Pedroia on first base, Napoli hammered a fastball the other way.
Napoli was 2 for 16 before the line-drive shot.
“I haven’t been feeling too good at the plate. My timing was off a little bit,” he said. “I’m working every day and feeling better and better with every at-bat. I’ll go from here and do what I can.”
Felix Doubront needed 90 pitches to get through five innings. He left with a 4-3 lead, having allowed nine hits. The lefthander struck out six without a walk.
Junichi Tazawa allowed a home run in the seventh inning by the incandescent Jose Reyes, who was 4 for 5 with three extra-base hits. But the bullpen was otherwise a rock as Koji Uehara, Andrew Bailey, and Hanrahan had scoreless innings.
Bailey left two runners stranded in the eighth inning to hold the lead. Hanrahan threw 16 pitches in the ninth inning. All were fastballs from 97-99 miles per hour.
“That was amazing to see,” said rookie left fielder Jackie Bradley Jr., who got on base twice, stole his first base, and threw a runner out at third. “All our relievers were throwing the ball hard. People were pretty fired up for this game. All I know is that it was a lot of fun.”
Toronto, which loaded its roster with star players after Farrell left, is off to a 1-3 start. The Jays were without slugger Jose Bautista, who injured his right ankle on Thursday.
Red Sox shortstop Jose Iglesias left the game in the fourth inning with a deep bruise on his right forearm.
Iglesias was hit by a fastball from Johnson in the second inning. He walked away from the plate holding his arm and the crowd booed. The boos got louder when Farrell came out to check on him.
Iglesias stayed in the game and made the best defensive play of the young season in the third inning.
With Reyes on first base, Melky Cabrera grounded a ball into the third base hole. Iglesias ranged far to his right, backhanded the ball, and made a strong throw across his body to force the speedy Reyes at second.
But Iglesias felt his arm tighten and was pinch hit for in the fourth. His replacement, Pedro Ciriaco, was 2 for 4 with an RBI. Iglesias is day-to-day and will be further examined on Saturday.
The crowd grew a little rowdy in the sixth inning, throwing garbage on the field that had to be cleared away. Some of the debris was directed at Farrell. But the Sox manager laughed it off, saying the atmosphere was fun.
“It was a great ballgame. A lot going on to take notice of,” he said. “There was a lot of excitement.”