TORONTO -- It was yet another night where the Red Sox refused to let some in-game adversity derail them.
Time and again, manager John Farrell's team has proved to be resilient, and it happened again in Tuesday's 4-2, 11-inning victory over the Blue Jays.
When Shane Victorino ripped a two-run single up the middle with two outs in the top of the 11th, it took the focus away from Junichi Tazawa struggling yet again against the Blue Jays and the slumping Mike Napoli having another tough night.
With 41 games left in their season, the Red Sox stretched their lead over the Rays to four games in the American League East.
Late-inning success stories such as this one are as big a reason as any for Boston being in such a good spot heading down the stretch.
Of the team's 72 victories, 19 have been registered in the last at-bat.
"If we get down early, we continue to grind, continue to be relentless at the plate, provide or build opportunities and we finally cashed in with the two-out basehit by Vic," said Farrell.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia (walk) and Will Middlebrooks (single) set the table for Victorino, who has had his share of big hits in the late innings.
"I'm just trying to put the ball in play," Victorino said. "Once I got down two strikes I was trying to get a ball I could handle. Fortunately I got a ball out over the middle of the plate and was able to put it through to center field and get the two ribbies."
Earlier in the night, Victorino made a big play on defense, firing a strike from right field to nail Jose Reyes on a single by Edwin Encarnacion.
"I knew the ball was hit hard. At first I kind of wondered if they were going to send him," said Victorino. "The thought went through my mind, but I still had to come up and throw and make the best throw I could."
Koji Uehara, the third reliever deployed by Farrell, came up aces again to pick up the win, lowering his ERA to 1.32. Uehara retired all four batters he faced, and with his 55th appearance of the season, his $4.25 million option for 2014 was vested.
"I'm looking forward to [seeing] you guys next year," Uehara quipped to the media after the game. "I feel that all the teammates, staff members, have been taking care of me. I think that has absolutely contributed to my good performance."
In this one, defense also played a big role. Napoli shook off his 0-for-5 performance at the plate by making a tumbling catch in foul territory to open the 11th.
"Napoli, he put together a heck of a game defensively at first, even though some opportunities alluded him at the plate," said Farrell. "Clearly, he contributed big time on the defensive side."
And Middlebrooks, playing his third game since his return from the Minors, made a diving stop on a grounder by Jose Bautista for the second out.
"Yeah, man, it's been a grind of a month and a half," said Middlebrooks. "It feels good to get some results after you go down and work your butt off."
David Ortiz gave the Sox a chance to pull back in front in the top of the 10th when he lined a double off the wall in right. But Jonny Gomes grounded out and Napoli struck out looking. That made Napoli 5-for-37 in August.
At this point, Farrell said he isn't contemplating pinch-hitting for Napoli.
"With Mike, you're going to take the good and the bad with this streaky type of offensive player," Farrell said. "That's who he is. And he's been a major contributor to this team all year."
After struggling in recent weeks, Ryan Dempster was strikingly efficient in this one, throwing 88 pitches over seven innings. The veteran righty gave up four hits and a run, walking two and striking out four. Dempster left with a 2-1 lead, in position to get his second win since June 25.
But Farrell opted to go to Tazawa in the eighth and that backfired instantly. J.P Arencibia, the first batter Tazawa faced, worked the count to 3-1 and ripped a fastball over the wall in left for a game-tying solo homer.
"I checked the video and the pitch that I made, I think I missed location," Tazawa said. "But I think the sequence that led up to that pitch was also something that I have to work on."
In seven games against the Jays this season, Tazawa has a 9.00 ERA and has given up five homers.
"I think they look in one area to go to and they look to go down and away to get a fastball," Farrell said. "A couple of times they've gotten into some fastball counts and it hasn't worked out well for them. To me, it's more their understanding where his strengths are and looking to attack it."
Early on, it looked like Dempster could be in line for a tough-luck loss. With the bases loaded and one out in the top of the sixth, Napoli struck out looking and Stephen Drew flew out to center, keeping Boston in a 1-0 hole.
But the bats got untracked in the seventh.
Middlebrooks got it started with an opposite-field double off the wall in right. Jacoby Ellsbury followed with a game-tying RBI single to right. With two outs, Dustin Pedroia belted an RBI single through the hole on the right side and just out of the reach of second baseman Maicer Izturis, giving the Sox their first lead of the night at 2-1.
In August, Pedroia is 8-for-17 with runners in scoring position.
Dempster had a one-hit shutout through four. Brett Lawrie gave the Jays some life in the fifth with a one-out double. With two outs, Arencibia came through with an RBI single to left to break the scoreless tie.
"That was a big win for us to go out there and pull that one out," Dempster said. "It's a nice thing when you have a day off and you come to the field and you get the first one of the series."