BOSTON -- The Boston Red Sox are willing to tolerate Jason Varitek's offensive struggles because of what he does behind the plate.
Or sometimes in front of it.
Varitek blocked the plate to erase a potential go-ahead run for Toronto in the eighth inning, then J.D. Drew doubled David Ortiz into position to score the tiebreaker in the bottom half on Friday and the Red Sox rallied from a pair of deficits to beat the Blue Jays 6-5.
"It was an unbelievable block," said Boston shortstop Alex Gonzalez, whose relay was a little high and a little toward first base, but still good enough for Varitek to stop Travis Snider from catching a part of the plate. "It was the play of the game."
Toronto led 3-0 and 5-3 on another two home runs off struggling Red Sox starter Josh Beckett -- that makes 12 homers in his last four starts -- but twice Boston came back to tie it. It was 5-all when Varitek tagged Snider out at home and then home plate umpire Gary Cederstrom called for the tarp to start a 49-minute rain delay.
"He saved the game," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said.
When play resumed, Hideki Okajima (5-0) got Aaron Hill -- the only batter he faced -- on a fly ball to right to end the eighth. Brian Tallet (5-8) walked Ortiz -- his only batter -- to lead off the bottom half, then Drew doubled one out later to put runners on second and third.
Varitek was intentionally walked, then pinch-hitter Casey Kotchman hit a hard grounder that first baseman Lyle Overbay knocked down; he could only get the force at second as Ortiz scored to make it 6-5.
Jonathan Papelbon pitched the ninth for his 31st save, loading the bases before striking out Rod Barajas and Snider. The Blue Jays stranded 12 and their 17 strikeouts were one short of a franchise record for a nine-inning game.
"We had a lot of" missed opportunities, Toronto manager Cito Gaston said. "But we had a great chance in that last inning. A base hit would have probably broken it open and given us a chance to win."
The biggest missed opportunity came in the eighth, when John McDonald doubled into the left-field corner and Snider scurried around the bases trying to score from first. Gonzalez relayed the throw from left-fielder Jason Bay to Varitek, who hooked Snider's leg and kept him from touching the plate.
"He definitely pulled a veteran move," Snider said. "I have to do a better job of reading his body language there."
Varitek is batting .222 for the season, barely above the .220 average from last season that was the worst of his 12-year career. He is batting .213 against right-handed pitchers and 2 for 19 against Toronto this season.
"He's a competitor. That's the reason the Red Sox still want him here," reliever Daniel Bard said. "That's not going to show up in the box score, but that's as big a play as you can ask for on a night like this."
Toronto shortstop Marco Scutaro left after being hit in the head by a pitch from Beckett in the fourth inning. The Blue Jays said Scutaro had no symptoms other than a bruise, but he would be monitored closely.
Hill had three hits, including a three-run homer that gave Toronto a 3-0 lead in the second inning.
Jacoby Ellsbury reached base four times with a single, double and two walks. He tied it in the fourth on a long fly that bounced off the warning track and the center-field wall into the right-field bleachers for a ground-rule double. The hop likely cost Boston a run, because Gonzalez had to stop at third, and Dustin Pedroia struck out to end the inning.
Again Toronto took the lead, this time on Barajas' two-run homer in the fifth. And again the Red Sox tied it, getting a two-run shot fro Bay in the bottom half to make it 5-5.
That saved Beckett from a second consecutive loss. The struggling Red Sox ace threw 108 pitches in five innings, allowing five runs on five hits and a season-high five walks while striking out five.
Beckett is 1-1 with three no-decisions in his last five starts and has a 9.82 ERA over his last three outings. Toronto starter Scott Richmond also gave up five runs in five innings and did not figure in the decision.
Fans in the Green Monster seats, near the American flag that was flying at half-staff in memory of U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, recorded Beckett's strikeouts on a sign that said "Teddy KKKKKKKKK." ... Red Sox RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka, who had been scheduled to make a rehab start for Double-A Portland at New Hampshire on Saturday night, will pitch Sunday instead because of the rain.