Red Sox Notes: Junichi Tazawa Not Backing Down From Pressure Of New Job

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BOSTON — Some things just can’t be explained. Take the Red Sox’s success against the Kansas City Royals, for instance.

After defeating Kansas City 4-1 in Thursday night’s series opener at Fenway Park, the Red Sox are 9-2 against the Royals since the beginning of last season. The Sox, who took two of three from the Royals earlier this season at Kauffman Stadium, have outscored Kansas City 60-34 in those 11 games.

The Red Sox, of course, are in last place in the American League East, whereas the Royals entered Thursday with the AL’s best record. And it’s been all Boston in the teams’ head-to-head matchups.

Let’s run down some notes from Thursday.

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— Wade Miley isn’t the flashiest pitcher around. But when it comes to figuring out the team’s 2016 rotation, the Red Sox could do worse than having him slotted in at the back end.

Miley allowed just one run on six hits over 7 1/3 innings. The left-hander struck out six and didn’t walk anyone, making it his longest start without issuing a walk since July 1, 2014, when he went eight innings without issuing a walk for the Arizona Diamondbacks against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Mike Moustakas’ fifth-inning home run was Miley’s only blemish. It was just the second time in his last 32 starts that Miley surrendered a home run to a left-handed batter.

— Travis Shaw continued his torrid streak with a double, a single and a bases-loaded walk. The 25-year-old looks locked in at the plate right now, especially at Fenway Park, where he already loves to hit.

“The backdrop is something that I’ve noticed. And early in the games, some places shadows are an issue. They haven’t been an issue here,” Shaw said of whether there’s an aesthetic reason for his success at Fenway. “Honestly, I don’t know what it is. I think it’s more that wall (in left field). It’s very encouraging to go that way.”

Shaw is hitting .522 (24-for-46) with six homers and 11 RBIs in 14 games (10 starts) at Fenway.

— Jackie Bradley Jr. continued his quest to carve out a role for 2016 by tripling into the right field corner.

He’s hitting .409 (18-for-44) with a .490 on-base percentage and a .932 slugging percentage over the life of a career-best 12-game on-base streak.

“He’s in a really good spot,” acting Red Sox manager Torey Lovullo said after the win. “This is a wave that every player wants to get on and we’re enjoying it.”

— So, with Shaw and Bradley both raking, has Lovullo given any thought to moving them up in the order?

“Well, we certainly want to give everybody an opportunity to show us what they can do,” the interim skipper said. “I think at this point we want to make sure that these guys establish a little bit of a foundation and they’re comfortable with where they’re at right now.

“I think it might be a little premature to move them around in the lineup. I think they’ve got to develop a little bit of a feel for where they’re at. We’ll discuss it as a group when that time is right. We just want to make sure it is the right time.”

— Junichi Tazawa, who recorded only one save in his first 239 career major league appearances, has earned saves in back-to-back outings. He tossed a 1-2-3 ninth inning Thursday.

“Great split (Thursday), I know that,” Lovullo said. “He once again stepped up to this challenge of a new role and a new situation, and for me, the past two nights, it’s been very, very impressive. The fastball velocity, fastball location has not changed and (Thursday) with that wipeout split, he looked real good.”

It looks like Taz could be just fine filling in as Boston’s closer with Koji Uehara done for the season.

“The only difference is that if I get into a jam, there’s no Koji to get me out of it,” Tazawa said of his new role through a translator.

— Steven Wright (concussion) will be evaluated Friday, according to Lovullo. The Red Sox hope to have a better idea of his status at that point.

Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images

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