Twice, they had the lead, only for the Blue Jays to tie it. But the Red Sox never fell behind on Tuesday night, and Mike Lowell put them ahead for good with a solo homer over the wall in left with two outs in the eighth.
"I think the fact that we got off to a pretty good lead, they tied it up and we just kept battling, that speaks of [the fact] we've kind of been relentless the whole year with injuries, but piecing things together," Lowell said. "That was a really nice win. Winning the first game is always pretty good, but I guess the way we did it tonight was extra satisfying."
Lowell, of course, finally has an opportunity to play regularly for the 2010 Red Sox because of an unfortunate reason -- the season-ending injury to star first baseman Kevin Youkilis.
Though Lowell himself is a four-time All-Star and a former World Series Most Valuable Player, he knows he can't be Youkilis.
"I feel like I have to try to be a solid bat at the plate. My job is like it was four years prior -- try to be a run producer," Lowell said. "If I do that, I think I'm doing my part. I think Kevin, if you look at the numbers, he's probably one of the five elite hitters in the Major Leagues the last three, four years. Would I love to? Yeah. I'd love to do it. But I think if you try to do something that somebody else does, you're going to get out of your own game plan."
After Lowell put the Sox in front, Jed Lowrie, who hit the ball hard all night, gave Boston additional breathing room with an RBI double later in the eighth.
Lowrie, too, was a forgotten man for most of the season. Mononucleosis prevented him from playing for the Red Sox until July 21. But with invaluable second baseman Dustin Pedroia out for probably one more week, Lowrie -- who had two RBI doubles -- is doing the best he can to hold down the fort.
"I think you're talking about some good players coming back and being able to contribute," Lowrie said. "Any time you get that opportunity, that's what it's all about."
Behind Lowell and Lowrie -- not to mention a big effort by the bullpen -- Boston staved off a Toronto team that lives and dies by the long ball.
On a night where primary setup man Daniel Bard was unavailable, Manny Delcarmen worked a strong eighth. Jonathan Papelbon followed up Monday's four-out save at Yankee Stadium with another strong performance.
With the win, the Red Sox sliced their deficit to five games in the American League East, as the Yankees lost, 4-3, on the road against the Rangers. Tampa Bay won, keeping Boston 4 1/2 back in the Wild Card standings.
Lowell's smash broke a 5-5 tie and took away the sting of Jose Bautista clubbing an equalizing solo shot -- No. 35 on the season -- against lefty Felix Doubront in the bottom of the seventh.
"He put a good swing on that ball," Doubront said. "He put a good swing on a fastball. That was a good pitch."
Though Doubront -- the winning pitcher -- was victimized by the AL's home run leader in the seventh, he came on in relief of Daisuke Matsuzaka in a pressure situation with two on and two outs in the sixth.
He should have been out of the inning when the first batter he faced, Fred Lewis, hit a grounder to short. But Marco Scutaro hesitated before throwing to second -- Lowrie seemed slow getting to the bag -- and everyone was safe, loading the bases. Doubront showed his poise by shaking off the mishap with a three-pitch strikeout of Travis Snider.
"Doubront -- not only his stuff, but his poise -- is off the charts," Francona said.
The young lefty was gratified, to say the least.
"You know, I was excited," Doubront said. "That's pressure, a little bit. But I was thinking of trying to come in and get the job done, and that's what I did."
Matsuzaka had pitched well of late, but this wasn't a particularly impressive performance. He gave up six hits and four runs over 5 2/3 innings, throwing 110 pitches.
"I think first and foremost, the guys got me the lead early in the game, and I'm disappointed the game turned out this way," Matsuzaka said through interpreter Masa Hoshino.
The Red Sox, quiet offensively of late, produced a nice rally in the top of the second. David Ortiz started it with a double to center. Adrian Beltre followed by rifling a double into the gap in left-center, bringing Ortiz home and breaking the scoreless tie. With two outs, Lowrie delivered an RBI double to right-center and Jacoby Ellsbury stung an RBI single, giving Matsuzaka a three-run lead.
Adam Lind got one of those runs back in the bottom of the second, ripping a solo homer to left.
The Red Sox continued to apply pressure on Jays starter Ricky Romero. Lowell got the job done with the bags full in the third, lofting a sacrifice fly to deep left that made it 4-1.
Matsuzaka did just what a pitcher doesn't want to do when he has a lead -- walk the first two batters in an inning. And in the bottom of the third, Snider made Matsuzaka pay by pummeling a game-tying three-run homer to right-center.
"It all happened in that inning," Matsuzaka said. "So between now and my next start, we'll break that down and find the reasons that happened and make the necessary adjustments."
J.D. Drew opened the fifth by belting a solo shot into the second deck in right, putting Boston back on top. Though Bautista temporarily derailed Boston's momentum, Francona's team got it back in short order and kept it for the victory.
"It definitely was a dog fight out there -- a tough one to lose for us," Snider said. "I think we showed some heart down the stretch and had a few opportunities we weren't able to take advantage of."