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BOS@TOR: Red Sox take lead on Pierzynski's grand slam

TORONTO -- The Red Sox bent, but they didn't break.

Entering the eighth with a commanding four-run lead, Boston allowed the Blue Jays to claw back, score three runs, and put the potential game-winning run on first base in the ninth before narrowly escaping the afternoon contest with a victory.

Koji Uehara recorded a four-out save, A.J. Pierzynski and Will Middlebrooks hit back-to-back homers as part of a six-run third inning and the Red Sox hung on to beat the Blue Jays, 7-6, at Rogers Centre on Saturday.

"We are hard workers and we are going to grind things out," said Middlebrooks, who has three hits and three RBIs in two games since returning from the disabled list. "It's not always going to go our way ... a couple innings were rough, but we really have a good group."

With the Red Sox leading, 7-3, entering the eighth, Boston's bullpen let the Blue Jays back into the contest.

Juan Francisco hit a solo homer -- his second in as many days -- off Red Sox reliever Junichi Tazawa to begin the frame and make it a 7-4 game. It was the seventh homer Tazawa has surrendered to the Blue Jays since the start of the 2013 season -- compared to three against every other team -- and bumped his career ERA to 11.88 vs. Toronto.

Tazawa allowed another run after the Francisco homer and then Chris Capuano loaded the bases with a walk before the Red Sox were forced to turn to their closer with two outs. Uehara retired the red-hot Melky Cabrera, but the Blue Jays weren't done just yet.

Jose Bautista opened up the ninth with a solo homer, his team-leading seventh of the season, to pull the Blue Jays to within one run. Singles by Dioner Navarro and Brett Lawrie put two on for Edwin Encarnacion, but the slugger lined out to center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. for the final out of the game.

"[Uehara] had just enough to hang on for the four-out save today," Red Sox manager John Farrell said.

The long ball Uehara surrendered was the first run he has allowed this season and the first homer he has given up since June 30 of last season, which was also a ninth-inning blast by Bautista. Uehara can thank Bradley Jr., who has made a number of difficult catches over the first two games of the series, for coming up with the ball and allowing the closer to record his fifth save of the season.

"[Bradley Jr.] is playing very good defense in center field, and today there was no bigger out than the final one," Farrell said.

Before the late-inning suspense, the Red Sox appeared to be on their way to a comfortable victory.

A night after scoring a season-high eight runs and handing Mark Buehrle his first loss of the season, Boston was back to clobbering Toronto pitching.

The Red Sox, who found themselves in an early 3-0 hole, responded with a rally of their own against Blue Jays starter Brandon Morrow.

Morrow managed to keep the Red Sox off the board through two innings despite walking four batters, but the free passes, which continued into the third, eventually caught up to him. With two outs in the third, Morrow walked four consecutive batters to bring in a run, leading to his quick exit. He lasted 2 2/3 innings and issued a career-high eight walks.

"It's embarrassing to not be able to command your fastball," said Morrow, whose ERA sits at 6.04 after five starts. "That's the number one thing you have to do, is command the fastball, to be successful."

Things weren't much better for his replacement, Chad Jenkins, either.

Jenkins, making his first appearance of the season after being recalled from Triple-A Buffalo on Friday night, allowed a grand slam to Pierzynski on the second pitch he threw. Pierzynski's eighth career grand slam -- the first by a Red Sox player this season -- gave Boston a 5-3 lead.

"A.J. can be streaky at the plate and he's seeing more pitches right now," Farrell said. "You ride the wave a little bit while he is swinging the bat well, and he has done a good job behind the plate."

Middlebrooks followed Pierzynski by hitting a solo homer, his second of the year, to left-center field to help the Red Sox put six on the board in the third -- the most runs they have scored in an inning this season. It marked the second time the Red Sox have hit back-to-back homers in 2014.

Mike Carp and Grady Sizemore hit back-to-back one-out doubles in the fifth to extend Boston's lead to 7-3.

Buchholz, meanwhile, settled in after allowing three first-inning runs. Although he wasn't at his sharpest, Buchholz battled out of some tough spots and kept the Blue Jays off the board over his next six innings of work to earn his first victory of the season.

"I was too amped up for the start today at the beginning," Buchholz said. "Everything was up and I wasn't finishing that many pitches."

Buchholz said that after watching video of previous outings, he tried to speed up his delivery for the Toronto start because he felt it had been too slow. That ended up causing him further problems with his delivery when it became too quick, but he was able to adjust and find a happy medium for the remainder of the game, he said.

The right-hander, who was tagged for six runs in his last start, went seven innings, walked three and punched out three to help the Red Sox win their second game in a row.

Boston will attempt to earn its first sweep of the season, and extend its winning-streak to a season-high three games, in Sunday's series finale with ace Jon Lester on the hill.

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