Sox pick up Uehara with walk-off win
June, 30, 2013
By Gordon Edes | ESPNBoston.com
BOSTON -- Et tu, Koji?
AP Photo/Michael DwyerKoji Uehara was crestfallen after giving up Jose Bautista's game-tying home run.
Bidding for his fourth save in five days Sunday afternoon, Koji Uehara was only two outs away from completing that mission when right-fielder Shane Victorino made a sliding catch of Jose Reyes' liner on the right-field line.
But that thought perished when the next batter, Jose Bautista, crushed a ball off the Sports Authority sign, tying the score at 4-4 and adding Uehara's name to the list of Sox relievers who have been taken deep, a familiar scene in the past couple of weeks.
It was the eighth home run allowed by a Sox reliever in the past 15 games. Andrew Bailey gave up four in that span and lost the closer's job; Junichi Tazawa has given up two, including a two-run home run to Bautista that broke a 2-all tie Saturday. Franklin Morales has given up one, and on Sunday, Uehara gave up his first home run since Domonic Brown of the Phillies took him deep on May 29 in Philadelphia.
Four of the home runs have resulted in blown saves. Four -- three allowed by Bailey, and Sunday's off Uehara -- have come in the ninth inning. The two allowed by Tazawa have been in the eighth inning.
Bautista's home run Sunday resulted in a blown save for Uehara, but he emerged a winner when the Sox scored in the bottom of the ninth. He was the first to reach Shane Victorino at first base for the celebration of Boston's seventh walk-off win this season.
"I was relieved that we got the win," Uehara said, "but I was angry that I lost the win for [Ryan] Dempster."
AP Photo/Michael DwyerKoji Uehara and Shane Victorino celebrate after Boston's 5-4 win over Toronto.
Uehara has been above reproach all month. He had been scored upon in just one of his 15 appearances this month, posting a 1.50 ERA while striking out 19 batters and walking three in 12 innings. Opposing hitters were batting just .077, as he had allowed just three hits to the 43 batters he'd faced before Sunday. He'd been perfect in his three saves last week, retiring all nine batters he'd faced while striking out six.
But it was just the first time all season he'd pitched on three straight days, and he admitted to being fatigued after Friday night.
Still tired Sunday?
"It was better, of course," Uehara said through translator C.J. Matsumoto. "I can't say it was completely gone. For me, a break is not coming to the ballpark."
The Sox are not scheduled to play Monday. "Tomorrow, a day off," Uehara said in English, smiling broadly.
Manager John Farrell was asked about the recent spate of homers.
"We've given up a number of them," he said. "We have fly-ball pitchers in our bullpen, and in this ballpark it can be risky. But we can't ask guys to change their style or be something that they aren't.
"We might not be a perfect team, but we sit at the top of the division right now. We know where our challenges lie and we're doing what we can to improve in every way that we can."
Said Victorino: "We're down to our fourth or fifth closer," he said. "Name me one team that can go through three or four closers and be where we are. You sit and look at that and you go, 'Wow.'"