TORONTO — Boston’s Clay Buchholz looked like he was heading for another forgettable outing. Instead, he found his form and picked up his first victory of the season.
A.J. Pierzynski hit his eighth career grand slam, Will Middlebrooks added a solo home run and the Red Sox held on to beat the Toronto Blue Jays 7-6 on Saturday.
Buchholz (1-2) survived a shaky first inning to win for the first time in five starts. The right-hander allowed three runs and six hits in seven innings, bouncing back from a bad start against Baltimore last Monday in which he allowed six runs in 21/3 innings.
After working on his delivery between starts, Buchholz was eager to try out the refinements. A little too eager, in fact.
“I was almost too amped up for the start today at the beginning,” Buchholz said. “Everything was up and I wasn’t finishing many pitches.”
Once he settled down, Buchholz retired 10 of the final 11 batters he faced.
“The first couple of innings were rough and then he really got in a good groove,” Middlebrooks said.
Buchholz, who walked three and struck out three, is 8-2 with a 1.72 ERA in 11 career starts at Toronto.
Jose Bautista and Juan Francisco hit solo home runs for the Blue Jays, who have lost a season-high four straight games.
Middlebrooks has five home runs and 10 extra base hits in 13 career games at Toronto’s Rogers Centre. He had a three-homer game against the Blue Jays on April 7, 2013.
Junichi Tazawa replaced Buchholz to begin the eighth but gave up a leadoff homer to Francisco. Back-to-back singles and a fielder’s choice put runners at the corners for pinch hitter Edwin Encarnacion, who hit an RBI single.
Chris Capuano replaced Tazawa and struck out pinch hitter Jonathan Diaz before walking Jose Reyes to load the bases. Koji Uehara came on and ended the inning by getting Melky Cabrera to fly out.
Uehara gave up Bautista’s leadoff homer in the ninth but got Encarnacion to fly out with men at first and second for his fifth save in as many chances.
“He had just enough to hang on for the four outs today,” Farrell said.
Bautista was the last player to connect against Uehara, taking him deep on June 30, 2013.
Blue Jays right-hander Brandon Morrow (1-2) issued a career-worst eight walks in 22/3 innings, allowing four runs without giving up a hit.
“I let down the team in a big way today,” Morrow said. “It’s embarrassing to not be able to command your fastball.”
Morrow, who struck out one, became the first pitcher to allow four or more runs without a hit since Dontrelle Willis gave up five runs and no hits while pitching for Detroit on June 4, 2009.
“We’ve been walking way too many guys all year,” manager John Gibbons said. “That’s unlike us.”
The Blue Jays jumped on Buchholz with three runs in the first. Bautista hit an RBI single and a second run scored on a wild pitch before Dioner Navarro drove in Bautista with a single off the wall.
Morrow walked two batters in each of the first and second innings, but got double play grounders to escape each time.
Morrow’s luck ran out in the third, when he walked four straight after retiring the first two batters of the inning. Chad Jenkins, who was recalled from Triple-A Buffalo following Friday’s game, came on for Morrow but Pierzynski hammered his second pitch over the wall for a grand slam. For Pierzynski, it was his first grand slam since May 2, 2009.
“We’re sitting there with no hits on the board and then one hit with five runs on the board,” Farrell said.
Five pitches later, Middlebrooks connected, the second time this season the Red Sox have hit back-to-back homers.