BOSTON – Beset by injuries, Boston’s bullpen can’t close it out.
Hours after closer Joel Hanrahan announced he would be undergoing season-ending surgery on his right forearm, Junichi Tazawa stepped in and surrendered a game-winning home run to Adam Lind to open the ninth inning as the Red Sox fell 3-2 to the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday.
With Hanrahan sidelined and Andrew Bailey also on the disabled list, Tazawa (2-2) will serve as Boston’s closer until Bailey is able to return from a biceps strain.
“It was a pitch he didn’t execute and he paid for it,” said Boston catcher David Ross. “Taz has been doing a really great job for us, he’s a really good pitcher and he’s one of our best.
“That’s why they chose to put him in the closer role while the guys are out.”
Red Sox Manager John Farrell said before the game he was unsure if Bailey would require a rehab stint in the minors, and it remains to be seen whether he will healthy enough to return Tuesday when he’s eligible to come off the DL.
In the meantime, Tazawa will continue to get the ball in late-game and save situations.
“There’s not one guy on this team that I don’t have a ton of confidence in,” Ross said.
After Boston rallied to tie the game at 2-2 in the eighth, Tazawa replaced starter Clay Buchholz and promptly surrendered Lind’s second homer of the season, a shot to straightaway center that quieted the crowd.
Farrell said the breaking ball was intended for the back foot. It didn’t get there.
“He’s been as powerful, he’s had good secondary stuff, with the exception of the 2-2 breaking ball that doesn’t get to the spot,” Farrell said, disputing a claim about Tazawa’s recent struggles. “It’s not been a matter of stuff. Still, location is going to be the key in any situation.”
Buchholz delivered another strong performance himself. The right-hander yielded two runs on six hits and three walks over eight impressive innings. He struck out four.
“Left a couple pitches up with runners in scoring position. They were able to put a bat on it,” he said. “I’ve got to make better pitches at that point in the game.”
It was just the fifth win in 16 games for struggling Toronto.
Toronto’s Mark Buehrle had outdueled Buchholz and had the Blue Jays in position to send him to his first loss of the season.
Darren Oliver (2-1) got the win despite giving up the tying run.
Casey Janssen pitched the ninth for his 10th save in 10 chances. He allowed a leadoff double, but got the next three hitters.
It was Buchholz’s first meeting with the Blue Jays since Toronto broadcaster Jack Morris accused him of throwing a spitball after he beat them on May 1.
Buehrle had baffled Boston’s batters for seven shutout innings, but he walked the leadoff hitter in the eighth and was pulled. Oliver relieved and Jacoby Ellsbury tripled over center fielder Colby Rasmus’ head. One out later with the infield in, Dustin Pedroia’s hard-hit grounder bounced off shortstop Munenori Kawasaki’s glove and into short left, allowing Ellsbury to race home with the tying run. The play was ruled an error.
Buehrle was charged with a run, allowing five hits, striking out five and walking two.
The start was delayed 51 minutes by rain before Buehrle and Buchholz began their work in a contest that saw the first seven innings played in about two hours.
Buehrle had given up five runs or more in five of his previous seven starts, but he had the Red Sox hitters looking confused as he changed speeds, mixing a below-average speed fastball with cutters, curves and change-ups to get a number of off-balanced, poorly timed swings.
The 35-year old left-hander retired 13 straight batters from the third through seventh innings, with Boston hitting just two balls out of the infield and striking out three times.
He needed just seven pitches in fifth and 12 in both the sixth and seventh.
Facing the Blue Jays for the first time since Morris’ accusations that lasted into his next start, Buchholz breezed through a perfect first inning on eight pitches, throwing seven strikes and getting a strikeout.
But Toronto scored a run in both the third and fourth before Buchholz got into a groove, too.
The Blue Jays, who were two-hit over seven innings by Buchholz in that 8-0 loss to the Red Sox in Toronto, grabbed a 1-0 lead on Melky Cabrera’s RBI single in the third.
In the fourth, Rasums’ run-scoring single made it 2-0 after Lind singled leading off and advanced on Brett Lawrie’s slow roller to third.
After the Blue Jays scored twice, Buchholz retired 11 of 12, walking one batter.
The Red Sox had two on and one out in the first and second, but Buehrle escaped both jams.
NOTES: The Blue Jays placed OF Rajai Davis on the 15-day DL with a strained left oblique muscle before the game and recalled RHP Chad Jenkins from Double-A New Hampshire. ... Hanrahan’s recovery time is expected to be six to nine months. ... Heather Abbott, of Newport, R.I., who was injured in the Boston Marathon bombings, threw out the ceremonial first pitch to Boston C Jarrod Saltalamacchia. ... Buchholz remains unbeaten at 6-0.