Uehara earns 16th save with another perfect 9th

Uehara earns 16th save with another perfect 9th
September 1, 2013, 8:00 pm
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BOSTON – While the Red Sox knew they were getting a good pitcher in Koji Uehara, it is unlikely they – or just about anyone – knew they were getting the lights-out closer the Japanese right-hander has turned out to be.
 
Uehara recorded his 16th save with a perfect ninth inning on Sunday in a 7-6 victory over the White Sox. He has three blown saves this season, but none since July 9.
 
He has retired his past 18 batters, including all 17 over his past five outings. He has been perfect in each of his past five save chances, the longest such streak by a Sox pitcher since Jonathan Papelbon in five straight from  Aug. 21–Sept. 6, 2007. Overall, Uehara has not allowed a baserunner in 14 of his 16 saves.
 
Sunday was his 21st consecutive scoreless outing, spanning a career-high 24 scoreless innings. He is the third Sox pitcher with 21 or more consecutive scoreless outings, along with Daniel Bard (25 in 2011) and Jonathan Papelbon (21 in 2011). In his 21-game scoreless streak, Uehara has allowed just seven base runners.
 
“We’ve seen the consistency from start to finish” said manager John Farrell. “He has saved our tail end all year long.”

That became a necessity when the Sox lost both former closers, Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey, to season-ending injuries. Uehara’s presence at the back of the bullpen has given the Sox a stability they have not had in that role since Papelbon left for Philadelphia after the 2011 season.
 
“It’s very calming from our perspective,” Farrell said. “We hope that run continues. Not only has he been efficient he’s in complete control whether it’s an inning and inning and a third. It’s a calming inning.”

Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said the key is Uehara's split-fingered fastball.

"He can just spot it anywhere he wants and then he’s able to elevate the fastball and get it by hitters," Saltalamacchia said. "He’s fun to catch because he sets up hitters so well.”
 
Uehara, 38, shrugs off his success.

"It's just confidence," he said. "If I'm doing my job and throwing my pitches I'll get hitters out."

Uehara needed just 15 pitches, 13 strikes, to get through his inning on Sunday. Since the All-Star break, he has thrown 76 percent of his pitches for strikes, averaging 3.44 pitchers per batter.
 
“When you look at the radar gun, it’s just a measurement,” Farrell said. “There hasn’t been increase or decrease in velocity. Improved consistency of command and that goes to the few number of pitches that he throws. Kind of marvel what he’s doing over a stretch of time.”
 
Some, though, prefer not to think too much about it.
 
“Let’s talk about something else,” said David Ortiz. “I don’t want any bad karma. He’s doing well. Let’s keep it that way.”