Red Sox Notes: Junichi Tazawa’s Decline Obvious In Latest Bullpen Loss

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Is there still a place for Junichi Tazawa on the Boston Red Sox’s roster?

The right-hander once was one of Boston’s most dependable relievers. He and Koji Uehara were a one-two punch that opponents had a tough time figuring out in the eighth and ninth innings. But recently, Tazawa has looked like a completely different pitcher, and not in a good way.

This much was obvious Thursday against the Detroit Tigers when Tazawa entered the game in the eighth inning with the Red Sox up 3-1 only to give up a single to Ian Kinsler, a double to Erick Aybar and another single — this one for an RBI — to Miguel Cabrera. Red Sox manager John Farrell then called upon Brad Ziegler, but he couldn’t hold things down either, and Tazawa ended up with three earned runs and the 4-3 loss.

August in general has been bad for Tazawa, as the reliever now has a 15.75 ERA (seven earned runs in four innings over six games) on the month. And whether this is a season decline or a career decline almost doesn’t matter at this point because the Red Sox have few options behind him.

“We’ve got some work to do. We’re going to need him,” Farrell said of Tazawa, per The Providence Journal’s Tim Britton. “We need some people to step up.”

Here are some more notes from Thursday’s loss.

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— Boston’s bullpen has given up the lead in the seventh inning or later in three of the Red Sox’s last eight games. This has been even more disappointing when you consider that the rotation has been much better this month, which means good starts are being spoiled.

Thursday it was Clay Buchholz, who turned in perhaps his best outing of the season after giving up just one run on eight hits with three strikeouts and no walks over six innings.

“He’s making a strong case for (remaining in the rotation),” Farrell said Thursday, via Britton. “I thought that was the most consistent quality of strikes he’s thrown in any given outing all year.”

— Rick Porcello will start against his former team Friday, and although it won’t be his first outing against the Tigers or his first time in Detroit with Boston, it is Porcello’s first start in Comerica Park. He’s not going to let that get to him, though.

“I think seeing them in Boston earlier this year helped, and obviously pitching against them in Boston and then coming here kind of took care of, I guess, feelings or whatever you want to call it,” Porcello said, per MLB.com’s Kyle Beery. “With the race that we’re in, I’m really trying my hardest not to let any of that creep into my head. I want to maintain the focus that I’ve had in my last three or four starts and not let anything alter that.”

— The Tigers’ first run of the game was a controversial one, as it came on a sort of odd double challenge. Tigers third baseman Casey McGehee hit a ball out to center field that Jackie Bradley Jr. missed, but it initially was called an out. Detroit challenged the out call and also argued that runner J.D. Martinez should have been awarded third base because he already was running on the out signal. The Tigers won on both accounts.

But Farrell was not happy about home-plate umpire Jerry Layne’s call after the game.

“Martinez going back to first base was based on Jerry Layne’s call which again, Jerry Layne is behind (the play),” Farrell said, per the Boston Herald’s Jason Mastrodonato. “Brian O’Nora (at second base) gives the safe sign, so Martinez is advancing to second base. The batter-runner is passing the other base-runner. I still don’t have an explanation. It is (expletive)-backwards to be honest with you. We go from a potential double play to a first and third situation. I still don’t buy it.”

Thumbnail photo via Rick Osentoski/USA TODAY Sports Images

Aug 18, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell (53) takes the ball to relieve relief pitcher Junichi Tazawa (36) in the eighth inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

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