BOSTON — Jonny Gomes was willing to do just about anything to drive in the go-ahead run.
“I’m a grinder,” Gomes said. “I’m willing to take one off the neck for the team.”
He chose the less painful route instead.
Gomes delivered the eventual game-winning hit with the bases loaded in the seventh inning Friday night, leading the Boston Red Sox to a 7-5 win over the Toronto Blue Jays after the Red Sox had squandered an early five-run lead.
Gomes entered the game as a pinch hitter for Daniel Nava, who already had two hits to that point.
Gomes came through again, though, reaching base for the seventh time in 15 pinch-hit appearances this season. He also improved his average with runners in scoring position to .321, versus just .217 overall.
“I kind of strive and hope I can get better every day, every month, every year,” said Gomes, who is hitting .333 with eight RBIs in his last 11 games. “To tell you the truth, where some of my numbers are succeeding right now, you might have been able to call rock bottom early on in my career, like really bad at it.
“That just comes with wanting and having to stick in the big leagues. Some of the things I’ve failed at, I’m just kind of turning around now.”
Dustin Pedroia had three hits for the first-place Red Sox, who have won four straight games and five of their last seven. Jacoby Ellsbury, Nava, Jose Iglesias and Stephen Drew added two hits apiece.
Toronto, which reeled off 11 straight wins earlier this month, had won 12 of its past 14 games and 15 of 19 entering this crucial four-game series against Boston.
After trailing 7-0 in the second inning of Thursday night’s 7-4 loss to the Red Sox, the Blue Jays fell behind early again on Friday.
This time, though, they charged right back after falling behind 5-0.
Toronto closed the gap to 5-4 behind a three-run fifth inning and one run in the sixth on a sacrifice fly by Maicer Izturis.
Andrew Bailey — Boston’s former closer who was demoted after struggling in late innings earlier this month — entered in the seventh and served up Edwin Encarnacion’s 23rd home run of the season, a game-tying shot to straightaway center that ended any hope of Allen Webster earning his first career win.
But Boston responded in the bottom half against relievers Neil Wagner and Brett Cecil, loading the bases before Gomes came in and singled down the left-field line off Cecil to put the Red Sox back on top 6-5. Darren Oliver then walked in another run.
“The extra early work that he does, the extra BP that he takes, the mindset that he gets into knowing two innings ahead of time,” Boston manager John Farrell said of Gomes, on what it takes to succeed in a reserve role. “He’s a veteran that’s been in this role for a number of years and physically and mentally he prepares himself to execute and he did.
“We have a lot of confidence when he walks to the plate.”
Wagner (1-2) took the loss for Toronto after being charged with two runs in 2/3 innings.
Andrew Miller (1-2) pitched a scoreless eighth and Koji Uehara recorded his third save in as many days with another perfect ninth. Uehara has struck out six of the nine batters he’s faced in that span, the first time all year he has pitched on three consecutive days.
“They’ve been trying to find that guy ever since (Joel) Hanrahan went down and then Bailey struggled, and he seems like the perfect guy for it,” Toronto manager John Gibbons said.
Webster gave up four runs on six hits over six innings, striking out three and walking two, leaving with a one-run lead.
Toronto’s Josh Johnson struggled again, allowing five runs on eight hits over just 3 1/3 innings. He struck out five and walked two, and has one victory in nine starts this season.
This time, he had trouble from the outset.
Johnson walked Mike Napoli and surrendered a single to Nava in the second. Drew then tripled to deep center, his third triple in his last four games, plating Napoli and Nava for a quick 2-0 Red Sox lead.
Boston tacked on another run in the third when Ellsbury singled and later scored on a base hit to right by Napoli.
Ellsbury made it 5-0 with a looping, two-run single to right in the fourth.
Toronto finally got to Webster in the fifth, cutting the deficit to 5-3 on consecutive RBI singles by Jose Bautista and Encarnacion, and a sacrifice fly by Adam Lind.
“A day like today, it’s definitely a team victory and we’ve had plenty of success with guys coming off the bench,” Gomes said. “So, we’ve got a deep team, a deep bench and we’re all ready.”
NOTES: Lind has now hit safely in 25 of his last 32 games after singling in the second inning. … Farrell said before the game that LHP Jon Lester is expected to make his next start on Wednesday against San Diego after leaving Thursday night’s game in the eighth inning with a jammed right hip. … Toronto SS Jose Reyes recorded his first hit since returning to the team Wednesday after missing the past 66 games with a severely sprained left ankle. Reyes was a combined 0-for-7 with a sacrifice fly and walk through his first three games until singling with two outs in the third Friday. … Ellsbury extended his hitting streak to nine games with a single in the third. … Drew left the game with right hamstring tightness after doubling in the fourth. … Boston has recorded 10 or more hits in six of its past seven games.
ORIOLES 4, YANKEES 3: Nate McLouth hit a tiebreaking home run in the seventh inning and Kevin Gausman pitched 4 1/3 innings of scoreless relief as the Baltimore Orioles rallied for a 4-3 win over the New York Yankees on Friday night.
Manny Machado added a two-run double for Baltimore, which was held hitless for five innings by Yankee starter C.C. Sabathia.
The Orioles remain in second place in the American League East, two games ahead of New York.
Robinson Cano had three hits for the Yankees and Brett Gardner added a double and a single.
With two outs in the seventh, McLouth (2 for 3) hit a 1-0 slider from Sabathia (8-6) high over the scoreboard in right field.
Gausman (1-3), who was considered along with T.J. McFarland for Friday’s start, took over for McFarland in the third and pitched through the seventh, allowing three hits and striking out four.
Tommy Hunter pitched the final two innings for his second save.
Hitless through five innings and trailing 3-0, the Orioles tied it in the sixth with the benefit of two hits that didn’t go 90 feet.
McLouth got Baltimore’s first hit, a line drive single to center leading off the inning. Alexi Castilla followed with an infield single between the mound and first. After Nick Markakis popped out, Machado lashed a double to right center, scoring McLouth and Castilla.
Machado raced to third on a J.J. Hardy fly to center and scored the tying run when Adam Jones hit a dribbler halfway up the first base line and beat it out for a single.
Sabathia (8-6) went seven innings and gave up four runs and five hits. He struck out six and didn’t walk a batter. The left-hander was making his 400th career start and seeking his 200th win.
He retired the first eight Orioles before Alex Casilla reached on an error by third baseman Alberto Gonzalez.
McFarland, a 24-year-old reliever making his first major league start, lasted just 2 2/3 innings, giving up three earned runs and seven hits.
New York got the leadoff man on in each of first three innings against McFarland and cashed in twice.
Gardner hit McFarland’s second pitch of the game to left center for a double and, one out later, Robinson Cano singled him home.
The Yankees opened the third with three consecutive singles, the last one by Vernon Wells that scored Jayson Nix to make it 2-0. Ichiro Suzuki struck out and Zoilo Almonte grounded into a fielder’s choice, but Chris Stewart lined a single to center, scoring Cano and ending McFarland’s night.
NOTES: A Yankees spokesman explained that a miscommunication between pitching coach Larry Rothschild and the PR staff resulted in the team incorrectly listing David Phelps as the starter for Friday’s game. … INF Brian Roberts, out with a hamstring injury since early April, will rejoin Orioles on Saturday and could play Sunday.