Clay Buchholz and the Boston Red Sox escaped another inconsistent performance, taking their team’s second straight victory, 7-6, from the slumping Toronto Blue Jays (11-13) at the Rogers Centre Saturday afternoon.
The Red Sox (12-13) were the beneficiaries of eight bases on balls from Blue Jays’ starter Brandon Morrow who exited with two outs, one run (walked) in and the bases loaded in the third inning. His replacement, Chad Jenkins, who had been called up from Triple-A Buffalo before the game, promptly yielded a grand slam to A.J. Pierzynski, followed by a solo home run to Will Middlebrooks, for a six-run outburst.
Buchholz was shaky at the outset of the game, yielding three runs in the opening frame. He walked two batters in the fourth as well but Jackie Bradley Jr. saved his starter from harm with a running catch in deep center field off the bat of Colby Rasmus to end the inning.
His teammates started no better. The Red Sox hit into doubles plays in each of the first two innings and seemed destined for another lackluster performance. The mood and outlook changed considerably, however, when Boston manager John Farrell won a replay challenge on a force out in the bottom of the second. A safe call was reversed on a grounder by Jose Reyes to short stop Jonathan Herrera. The out ended the inning and the Red Sox bats came to life in the top of the third.
Buchholz finished after 106 pitches and seven complete innings of work. Junichi Tazawa entered the game to start the bottom of the eighth. His season-long scoreless inning streak ended quickly on upper deck blast to center field by Juan Francisco, the first batter he faced. Tazawa surrendered three more hits and another run before getting the hook.
Chris Capuano replaced Tazawa with one out and the go-ahead run at the plate. Capuano struck out pinch hitter Jonathan Diaz – his fourth consecutive Blue Jay strike-out over two games – then walked Reyes in a 10-pitch at-bat. Farrell then went to his closer, Koji Uehara, with two outs in the eighth and the bases full of Blue Jays.
The drama heightened again in the ninth though when Jose Bautista led off with a home run – Uehara’s first run yielded on the season. After Francisco struck out, Dioner Navarro singled. Rasmus then struck out but Brett Lawrie singled, advancing Navarro to second base. Bradley made a tremendous catch on a line shot by Edwin Encarnacion to give Buchholz his first win and Uehara the four-out save.
Toronto out hit Boston 13-5, although the Sox netted nine walks. The defense, particularly in the outfield, was a factor in the win.
Buchholz is not the pitcher he was a year ago, when he led the league in winning percentage and ERA. He persevered despite early woes, yielding six hits and three runs through seven innings. He walked three and struck out three.
The grand slam by Pierzynski was his first since 2009.