It’s amazing that the Red Sox’ most energetic player is also the team’s most calming presence.
Koji Uehara provided another perfect effort Wednesday. He tossed a 1-2-3 ninth inning with the score tied and earned the win in the Red Sox’ 10-inning victory over the Rays. Uehara also penciled his name into the Red Sox’ record book and further demonstrated his importance to the club.
The Red Sox entered the seventh inning Wednesday with a 3-1 lead, but the bridge to Uehara once again crumbled, as the Rays got to Brandon Workman for two runs in the rookie’s two innings of work. Evan Longoria made it 3-2 with an RBI double in the seventh, and James Loney knotted things up with a solo homer in the eighth. The Red Sox’ offense failed to score off Rays closer Fernando Rodney in the ninth inning, but manager John Farrell decided that the best course of action was to bring in Uehara with the score tied. After all, the Red Sox needed someone to slow down Tampa’s suddenly surging offense, and who better?
The move worked out for the Red Sox, as Uehara breezed through the ninth inning to send the game to extras, at which point Mike Carp connected on a pinch-hit grand slam. Carp’s big blast was the difference in the Red Sox’ 7-3 win, but Uehara’s perfect ninth inning didn’t go unnoticed — even if it’s expected nowadays.
“I’m kind of running out of good things to say about the guy because every night he comes out and does his job,” Carp said following the win.
Uehara shutting down the opposition barely warrants a story anymore because it’s simply what the right-hander does. Whether he’s asked to nail down a win or hold down the opposing offense in a tie game to give the Red Sox’ offense another chance, Uehara simply puts up zeros. And it’s unlike anything the Red Sox have ever seen before.
Uehara broke Ellis Kinder’s club record of 32 straight batters retired — set in 1952 — when he struck out Wil Myers in the ninth inning of Wednesday’s game. Uehara then got Ben Zobrist to ground out to second base, meaning the Red Sox closer has now retired a franchise-record 34 consecutive hitters — and counting.
Uehara’s scoreless streak now sits at 29 1/3 innings, which is the longest single-season scoreless streak for a Red Sox reliever since Dick Radatz enjoyed a 33-inning scoreless stretch in 1963. Uehara’s streak spans 26 appearances, giving him the longest consecutive scoreless outings streak in Red Sox history. He broke Daniel Bard’s 2011 mark of 25 on Wednesday.
“To go that many innings and do that, that’s amazing, especially being thrown in the closer role the way he has,” Carp said. “He’s been definitely a huge uplift for us.”
The Red Sox love the energy that the high-fiving, fist-pumping, bear-hugging Uehara brings to the table. But it’s the peace of mind that he provides every time he takes the mound that has the Red Sox a more confident team in the later innings.