BOSTON — Koji Uehara had two disastrous relief outings against these same Detroit Tigers in the 2011 American League Championship Series when he was pitching for the Texas Rangers.
He surrendered a solo homer in each appearance, which both were shorter than an inning. Both games also ended with the Rangers losing.
Flash forward two years. Things have unfolded in reverse fashion for Uehara, now the Red Sox closer, against these same Detroit Tigers.
Here in the 2013 ALCS, Uehara entered last night’s Game 6 having pitched 5.0 scoreless innings and having allowed just three hits and no walks while striking out seven batters.
The 38-year-old Japanese right-hander, who the Red Sox signed as a middle reliever/setup man this past offseason and who Boston originally had planned never to pitch more than one inning in any outing, recorded a five-out save in Game 5.
He entered last night having pitched more than one inning in three of his four postseason saves.
In other words, he was a playoff flop in ‘11 and has been a playoff MVP this fall.
He arguably was Boston’s MVP during the regular season and nothing has changed this series.
Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland put it best when he said about Uehara before last night’s Game 6, “His significance right now is probably as important as anybody they’ve got on their team.”
Uehara isn’t as nervous as one might be if he had to wait about eight innings for these intense, high-pressure, extremely lengthy playoff games to unfold before being summoned to the mound to determine the outcome.
“It’s not really nervousness it’s just my natural emotion which comes out,” Uehara said through his translator.
Bogartts thinking back
Asked to think back to the first postseason game he ever watched on TV or listened to on the radio as a young boy growing up in Aruba, Red Sox 21-year-old rookie Xander Bogaerts couldn’t quite remember.