Stunner: Uehara gives up rare home run

Stunner: Uehara gives up rare home run
October 8, 2013, 12:45 am
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- By definition, any walkoff defeat is a shock to the system, and in the post-season, that goes double.
      
But when the losing pitcher on the mound is Koji Uehara, the setback borders on the unbelievable.
      
Uehara, brought in for the bottom of the ninth after the Red Sox had tied the game in the top of the inning, allowed a game-winning homer to catcher Jose Lobaton, giving the Tampa Bay Rays the most improable of 5-4 wins.
      
"You don't expect it," said Shane Victorino. "You have all the confidence in the world in Koji from what he's able to do all year long. I think that's what makes it a little tougher."
      
The homer was the first allowed by Uehara since June 30, better than three months ago. And never mind homers - Uehara had allowed only run, of any sort, over his last 38 appearances.
      
"He's human," stressed pitching coach Juan Nieves, a phrase that was repeated again and again in the Red Sox clubhouse after the game. "It's going to happen once in a while. Fortunately, it's only happened once this year. He had a great year. This doesn't take away anything he's done."
      
Uehara had thrown his trademark split-finger fastball to get ahead of Lobaton 0-and-1, and then tried to throw another one.
      
"It wasn't a bad pitch," maintained Jarrod Saltalamacchia. "(Lobaton) just did a good job of going down and getting it and hit it out. You guys have to remember that he's a human being and those things are going to happen. The good thing is, he's able to bounce back. He's done it all year long, and we don't expect anything different."
      
"It certainly comes with the territory," said Uehara of the disappointment, "but still I had to perform and get the hitter out."
      
What made the loss all the more crushing is that the Sox had rallied in the top of the ninth to tie a game after the Rays had broken a 3-3 tie and gone ahead in the eighth.
      
Just when it seemed like the Sox had the advantage, with a tie score and a fresh Uehara coming in for the bottom of the ninth, the game got away from them for good.
      
"It was hard thing to swallow," acknowledged Uehara, "and I wanted to give them an opportunity to get back on the field."
      
The post-season is littered with closers who sometimes trip up at the worst possible time, but unless it's a season-ending, elimination game, they're often tasked with the job of coming back the next night, or two nights later, and saving another game.
      
If that's the case, the Red Sox will welcome the chance and won't hesitate to go to Uehara again.
      
"I think he's fine," said Nieves. "I think he'll be ready to go (Tuesday) and looking forward to (starter Jake) Peavy going eight and hopefully, we'll see Koji in the ninth."
      
"It's something that's in the past already," said Uehara, "so I'm not going to think about it."