BOSTON (CBS) – Koji Uehara has been downright filthy for the Boston Red Sox.
After striking out with their first three attempts at a closer this season — both Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey fell to injury while Junichi Tazawa couldn’t hold the job — the Red Sox have struck gold with Uehara, who tossed his 25th consecutive scoreless inning Tuesday night against the Detroit Tigers.
It was Uehara’s 17th save of the season, and 16th in 18 tries since taking over as Boston’s closer on June 26. He’s now retired 21 straight batters, leading to dozens of those celebratory high-fives that have become common practice whenever Uehara takes the hill.
Tuesday night, Uehara needed just nine pitches to retire the trio of Tigers he faced, getting pinch-hitter Andy Dirks to pop out to second before striking out both Branyan Pena and Jose Iglesias by way of the K.
John Farrell is running out of ways to say how great Uehara is at the back-end of the Boston bullpen, but on Tuesday night it was the Japanese reliever’s efficiency on the hill that had his manager gushing.
Stats: Uehara’s Player Page
“You keep coming back to the efficiency; nine pitches here tonight with a couple of strikeouts. He has that ability to throw that split in the bottom of the strike zone for a called strike and then the deception behind it for swing and miss to both [Branyan] Pena and[Jose Iglesias],” said Farrell. “It was a very calming inning.”
Uehara has been the picture of perfection in his last six save situations, and his 22 straight scoreless outings is the second-longest in team history after the 25-game streak the recently DFA’d Daniel Bard put together in 2011. As Boston’s closer, Uehara has allowed just one earned run in 32.1 innings pitched, striking out 43 batters while walking just two.
Overall this season, Uehara has a 1.16 ERA in 62 games. His 62.1 innings pitched are just shy of the career-high 66.2 innings he tossed for the Orioles when he first came to the Majors in 2009, so Farrell will have to be cautious when it comes to overworking Uehara down the stretch.
But given that Uehara has not allowed an earned run since the last day of June, it’ll be hard not to turn to Uehara with a game on the line.