BOSTON -- The bullpen had been beleaguered for three straight days, but Saturday was a new day, and manager John Farrell's relief pitchers were a big reason the Red Sox were able to pull out a 6-4 victory over the Blue Jays.
Knuckleballer Steven Wright had been so good at giving Boston extended performances all season long. But it took him five innings to throw 111 pitches in this one, and that meant the bullpen was going to need to record the final 12 outs and preserve a two-run lead to bring home the win.
First out of the gate was Matt Barnes. The hard-throwing righty fired two impressive innings, allowing no hits and a run while striking out two.
Then, it was Junichi Tazawa, who had struggled mightily in his previous two appearances. But this time, the righty was lights out in a 15-pitch eighth.
By the time the ninth inning rolled around, it was no secret who Farrell would turn to. Out came Craig Kimbrel, and the closer topped out at 100 mph while also firing in several fastballs at 99 and a few others at 98.
Of Kimbrel's 14 pitches, 11 were strikes as he recorded his 13th save.
"Lights out," Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts said. "Barnes, Taz and Kimbrel throwing 100 at the end."
In all, Boston relievers logged four innings while allowing one hit, one run and one walk with three strikeouts to pull out a big win against Toronto, which had been red hot of late and closing in on the Red Sox in the American League East standings.
"Outstanding," Farrell said. "The power coming in behind the knuckleballer is the perfect contrast of style. Matt Barnes continues to show big-time stuff. I thought today Taz was extremely crisp. Those three guys gave us four strong innings on a day we needed it."
They sure did need it. In the three-game losing streak the Red Sox brought into Saturday's contest, the bullpen had been belted around for 14 earned runs over 9 2/3 innings.
With such a strong rebound performance by the 'pen, Wright was able to earn his sixth win, and the Blue Jays fell 3 1/2 games behind Boston.
"It was awesome," Wright said. "They've been battling all year. They've been coming in, and today they're able to execute, and it was great."
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.