BOSTON -- Daisuke Matsuzaka needed some help after nearly blowing a nine-run lead. Mike Lowell provided it.
The Boston Red Sox held on for a 13-10 win over the Toronto Blue Jays on Monday night. After Toronto had scored eight runs in the sixth, closing to 10-9, Lowell singled leading off the bottom half to start a three-run rally.
"We thought it was going to be a cakewalk when it was 10-1 but it turned out to be a pretty close game," said Lowell, who hit a three-run homer and drove in four runs. "You don't want to give away these games, especially when you go out to such a big lead."
Matsuzaka (14-11) nearly did. He gave up at least five runs for the third time in four starts.
After yielding one run and five hits in five innings, he allowed six of the first seven batters to reach base in the sixth and was charged with seven runs in the game before leaving with one out in the inning. He started the inning with a walk, then gave up a hit off his glove and a bloop single.
"Certainly, there were a few bad breaks in a row," he said through a translator. "I felt that I could pitch well enough to cover those bad breaks, but I wasn't able to."
The Japanese star has allowed 20 runs in his last 23 2/3 innings and gave up seven runs and 10 hits in 5 1/3 innings against the Blue Jays. The seven runs matched the most he's allowed in his 28 major league starts, and his ERA has risen to 4.11 from 3.59 on Aug. 10.
The Blue Jays had a chance to tie the game in the sixth, but the inning ended with Matt Stairs on third when fleet rookie left fielder Jacoby Ellsbury made a diving catch on Frank Thomas' sinking liner.
"That was the play of the game," Julio Lugo said.
Boston opened a seven-game lead in the AL East over the second-place New York Yankees, who lost to Seattle.
Lowell went 3-for-4 and reached base five times on his 18th homer, two singles, an intentional walk and a two-run error by third baseman Troy Glaus. He extended his hitting streak to 16 games and stole his third base of the season.
"He's been our MVP," Jason Varitek said.
Lowell is 10-for-16 with eight RBI in his last four games while batting fourth in place of the injured Manny Ramirez. He is batting .333 -- well above his career high of .293 with Florida in 2004. He has 101 RBI, four shy of his career best, set in 2003.
"I think I'm more satisfied with the fact that Manny's out of the lineup and they're putting me kind of in his spot and I'm producing," Lowell said. "That's a satisfying feeling."
The AL's two best pitching staffs gave up 32 hits -- 16 apiece. Boston (3.74) and Toronto (3.92) entered as the only AL teams with ERAs under 4.00.
"We haven't seen many like that in a long time," Toronto manager John Gibbons said.
After the Blue Jays pulled within a run, Boston bounced back with three runs in the bottom half on Varitek's RBI single, Coco Crisp's run-scoring sacrifice bunt and Jason Frasor's balk. The Red Sox bullpen managed to hold the lead despite allowing Gregg Zaun's RBI double in the seventh, with Jonathan Papelbon getting his 32nd save in 34 chances.
Jesse Litsch (5-7) gave up seven runs and seven hits in 3 1/3 innings.
Alex Rios singled in a run in the first, but Lowell homered in the bottom half and sacrifice flies by David Ortiz and J.D. Drew boosted the lead to 5-1 in the third.
Boston added five runs in the fourth on a two-run single by Dustin Pedroia, Glaus' error on a hard grounder between his legs and another sacrifice fly by Drew. Then the Red Sox allowed their biggest inning of the season, with Glaus hitting a three-run homer and Stairs doubling in two runs off Javier Lopez.
"Matsuzaka had a long wait between innings and that may have had an effect," Stairs said. "His velocity was still up there at the end. He still had a lot of bite on his fastball."
Lowell is the first Red Sox third baseman with more than 100 RBI since Butch Hobson had 112 in 1977. ... LHP Joe Kennedy allowed three runs in two-thirds of an inning in his first appearance with Toronto. He pitched in 27 games for Oakland and three for Arizona, which designated him for assignment on Aug. 15. ... Eric Hinske started in place of Boston 1B Kevin Youkilis, who struck out in all four of his at bats in Sunday's 3-2 win over Baltimore. Youkilis came in on defense in the eighth. ... RHP Matt Clement is to throw a simulated game on Wednesday, manager Terry Francona said. Clement has been sidelined all season after shoulder surgery last Sept. 26.