His two-run single with the bases loaded in the ninth inning sparked a three-run rally and the Blue Jays hung on for a 5-4 win Wednesday night.
Kawasaki, who broke an 0-for-18 slump, lined a 1-2 pitch from Joe Smith into left-centre field to score two runs and break a 3-all tie. A third run scored when centre fielder Michael Bourn booted the ball for an error.
The Blue Jays nearly gave it away in the bottom of the inning. Closer Casey Janssen, who had converted 17 of 18 save chances, gave up Asdrubal Cabrera's RBI single that cut the lead to two. Kawasaki's throwing error made it a one-run game but Steve Delabar retired Michael Brantley on a fly ball for his first career save.
"Great ballgame, it really was," said Toronto manager John Gibbons. "The guys battle, like they always do."
Colby Rasmus drew a one-out walk off Rich Hill (0-1). After Maicer Izturis flied out, J.P. Arencibia was announced to bat for Josh Thole. Smith relieved Hill but Arencibia singled and Emilio Bonifacio walked to load the bases. Kawasaki fell behind in the count but came up with the clutch hit Toronto's struggling offence has needed.
"They were able to make the chance for the RBI opportunity," Kawasaki said through a translator. "I just tried to connect."
Neil Wagner (2-3) struck out Ryan Raburn with the bases loaded to end the eighth after the Indians tied the game. Casey Janssen, who had recorded 17 of 18 save opportunities, allowed two runs in the ninth before Steve Delabar retired Michael Brantley on a fly ball for his first major league save.
Indians starter Justin Masterson took a two-hit shutout into the seventh but Bonifacio's two-run single put the Blue Jays ahead.
The Indians tied the game in the eighth off All-Star reliever Brett Cecil on Brantley's RBI single. Asdrubal Cabrera's two-out single and Kawasaki's throwing error in the ninth cut the lead to 5-4 but Delabar recorded the final out.
"We took the lead and they came back and of course it got a little hairy there at the end," Gibbons said.
Smith, pitching for the fourth straight day, couldn't get the one out the Indians needed.
"Smitty had faced Arencibia four times and struck him out four times," Cleveland manager Terry Francona said. "That's the matchup we wanted. With Kawasaki, he just left the ball over the plate and Bourny mishandled it for the unearned run."
The Blue Jays, who had been blanked in two of their last three games, struggled against Masterson. Toronto finally broke through thanks to two hits and a pair of walks.
Toronto starter Esmil Rogers allowed one run in six innings.
Adam Lind doubled with one out in the seventh and moved to third on a groundout. Izturis walked on four pitches before Thole walked on a 3-2 pitch to load the bases. Bonifacio, who struck out with a runner on third to end the fifth, lined a 2-1 pitch into right field to score Lind and Izturis, giving Toronto the lead.
The clutch hit came on Masterson's 120th and final pitch of the night. The right-hander, a member of the American League All-Star team, allowed four hits, struck out six and walked five.
The Blue Jays were shut out by four pitchers in Monday's 3-0 loss to Cleveland.
Giambi's RBI single gave Cleveland the lead in the second.
Cleveland traded Rogers, who was making his eighth start of the season, to Toronto for infielder Mike Aviles and catcher Yan Gomes in November. Rogers struck out seven and held Cleveland to four hits.
Masterson didn't allow a hit until Rasmus led off the fifth with a double. Masterson was coming off his shortest start of the season when he allowed six runs in 4 2-3 innings in a 7-0 loss to Detroit on Friday. He threw a six-hit shutout in his start before against the Chicago White Sox.
Cabrera broke an 0-for-20 slump with a single in the first. Indians reliever Preston Guilmet made his major-leage debut in the seventh and retired both batters he faced.
NOTES: RHP Danny Salazar will be called up from Triple-A Columbus to make his major league debut Thursday against Toronto. "It was a shock when they told me. I didn't know what to say," said Salazar, who began the season at Double-A Akron. Francona expects Salazar to have the normal pre-game jitters all pitchers experience before their first start. "If he has any brains at all, he probably won't sleep a wink and he'll tell everybody tomorrow he did," Francona said. ... The Blue Jays are considering moving Brett Lawrie (sprained left ankle) from third base to second base when he comes off the 15-day disabled list. Lawrie played second Tuesday in a rehab appearance at Triple-A Buffalo. "We're gonna let him do it down there a little bit and we'll kind of look at it when he comes back," manager John Gibbons said. ... RHP Zach McAllister (sprained middle finger) will make a rehab start at Akron on Saturday. Francona said McAllister won't throw his curveball, which caused the injury, on Friday but will use it on his second rehab start. ... RHP R.A. Dickey will start for the Blue Jays in the series finale that will begin at 12:05 p.m.