Wipeout bullpen paves way for comeback win

Kimbrel notches first save as relievers fire six shutout innings

Wipeout bullpen paves way for comeback win

TORONTO -- It is a bad feeling for any manager when he has to hand the ball over to the bullpen with none out in the fourth inning. Red Sox right-hander Joe Kelly didn't feel too good either about forcing John Farrell into that unenviable task on Friday night at Rogers Centre.

But by the end of a wild 8-7 victory by the Red Sox, there was a sense of satisfaction throughout the clubhouse.

The bullpen made it possible by firing six shutout innings and not allowing a hit after the fifth.

"That's what we expected them to do this year," third baseman Travis Shaw said. "Get a lead heading to the seventh, and we shouldn't lose very many leads with this bullpen, especially once Carson Smith comes back. It's a wipeout bullpen. It shortens the game. It's big knowing if you have that lead in the seventh or eighth inning, those guys can come in and shut it down."

The 7-8-9 combo of Junichi Tazawa, Koji Uehara and Craig Kimbrel could evolve into one of the best in the American League.

Though Rogers Centre has been a house of horrors for Tazawa (6.52 ERA in 10 previous outings) for most of his career, he mowed right through Toronto in a 1-2-3 seventh. For Tazawa, it helped wash away the bitter taste of giving up a go-ahead homer to Mike Napoli in Cleveland on Wednesday.

"Junichi is a very good pitcher," Farrell said. "He's our seventh inning guy, he's going to pitch high leverage innings late in the game. There is complete confidence in Junichi."

The 41-year-old Uehara gives the Red Sox the luxury of a successful closer pitching the eighth. And after he started by walking pinch-hitter Justin Smoak, the righty ran right through the tough top third of the Blue Jays' order, finishing with a reflexive stop on a grounder back to the box by Jose Bautista.

Uehara's quick glove snag

The table was set for Kimbrel, and the stud closer's first save for the Red Sox was an uneventful 1-2-3 frame.

Now, Kelly -- who gave up a grand slam to Josh Donaldson to end his night -- can go back to the drawing board over the next few days without the weight of a loss.

"Obviously, I didn't perform the way I wanted to perform, but that was a really, really fun win for the team," Kelly said. "Pretty incredible to see. I'm obviously going up against another good pitcher [Marcus Stroman]. Our guys battled back. It was pretty fun to watch; the bullpen came in and did a great job."

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.