BOSTON -- Koji Uehara pitched 1 1/3 perfect innings, including two strikeouts, of Friday’s 4-3 win over the White Sox at Fenway Park Friday night to record his 15th save of the season, with a 1.19 ERA. It was his third career save of at least four outs and his second this season, along with his outing on Aug. 24 against the Dodgers in Los Angeles.
It was his 20th consecutive scoreless outing, spanning a career-high 23 scoreless innings. He is just the fourth Red Sox pitcher to cobble a scoreless streak of 20 or more outings, along with Daniel Bard, who had 25 in 2011, Jonathan Papelbon (21 in 2011), and Ugueth Urbina (20 in 2002).
In his 20-game scoreless streak, Uehara has allowed just seven base runners.
His numbers since the All-Star break are exactly what you would want to see from a lights-out closer heading into the final stretch of the regular season: In 16 games, spanning 18 innings, he has not allowed a run, giving up five hits and walk with 20 strikeouts.
What does he attribute those kinds of numbers to?
"I think playing golf around here during the All-Star break,” Uehara said. “I think it was that one outing."
We think he was kidding. Then again, golf is all about lowering your scores and your handicap. Uehara needed just 17 pitches, 14 for strikes, to record the final four outs. With that kind of efficiency, manager John Farrell would not hesitate to continue to use Uehara in situations that require more than one inning from his closer.
“Hopefully the trend continues over one-plus innings,” Farrell said. “But over the past month I think he’s averaging somewhere around 12 or 13 pitches an inning, in those closing situations... It was a pivotal time to record the final out: their middle of the lineup, their power in that situation. But yeah his efficiency certainly lends to the ability to go four outs.”
“It’s all about getting 27 outs as a team,” Uehara said. “Baseball is all about throwing strikes.”