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Wipeout bullpen paves way for comeback win

Kimbrel notches first save as relievers fire six shutout innings
MLB.com @IanMBrowne

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.

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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.

View Full Game Coverage

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.

Video: BOS@TOR: Uehara snares Bautista's chopper

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.

Boston Red Sox