BOSTON Facing five Yankees batters on Tuesday night, Junichi Tazawa struck out three, stretching his streak of scoreless and hitless innings to eight over his last five outings. He has given up two runs in his last 12 games, spanning 14 13 innings.The right-hander has appeared in 27 games over three stints with the Red Sox this season, shuttling from Triple-A Pawtucket. In 35 innings, he has allowed six earned runs on 34 hits and five walks with 35 strikeouts, posting a record of 0-1 with a 1.54 ERA. He has held opponents scoreless in 21 of his 27 appearances. In 25 games with Pawtucket, he was 3-2 with four saves and a 2.55 ERA.After Tommy John surgery in April 2010, Tazawa missed all of that season, before being activated from the disabled list on June 27, 2011. Even at the beginning of this season, manager Bobby Valentine said that Tazawa was dealing with the side effects of the surgery.At the beginning of the season, in spring training he was still cautious with his arm, Valentine said. He couldnt throw his breaking ball nor his fastball with the kind of effort that he wanted. He was always holding back five or 10 percent, according to him. Now hes not holding back. Hes throwing 96, or 97, and he has impeccable control and three pitches. I think moving forward, I think hes going to be a very good pitcher on a championship team.Tazawa was originally pegged as a starter, making 20 starts between Double A and Triple A in 2009. Since his surgery, though, he has made just eight starts, all last season. He has not made a major league start since 2009, when he made four.He came to spring training as a possible starter this year and struggled with the windup, and all that stuff, Valentines said. Theres a lot of value in good relief pitching that doesnt always show up on balance sheets or whatever.I think he likes being a good pitcher, likes being healthy. We can use him a lot.Tazawa, who turned 26 in June, signed with the Sox as an international free agent from Japan in December, 2008, after a four-year amateur career in the Japan Industrial League.He was unique, said Valentine, who managed in Japan during that time. He was the case study. It caused quite an uproar. When I was there he was going to be my number one draft choice there. And instead, out of the industrial league, an amateur industrial league, he signed a professional contract here. I think the first one to ever do it. And so he is unique.Valentine sees an important role on the Sox staff for a fully healthy Tazawa.I couldn't imagine him not being on our team and being an integral part, Valentine said.
CINCINNATI - Mitch Moreland ended his long slump with a three-run homer, Eduardo Rodriguez pitched three-hit ball into the eighth inning, and the Boston Red Sox took another step toward a second straight AL East title, beating the Cincinnati Reds 5-0 on Saturday.
Boston has won 13 of 16, holding off the Yankees as it tries to win back-to-back East titles for the first time since divisional realignment in 1969. The Red Sox have their best record of the season at 90-64, reaching 90 wins for the second year in a row.
They remain four games in front of the Yankees, who beat Toronto 5-1.
Moreland was in an 0-for-19 slump when he connected off Robert Stephenson (5-6) in the sixth inning, his 20th homer of the season but only his second in September. The Red Sox are last in the AL with 160 homers.
Rodriguez (6-6) has given up two or fewer earned runs in each of his last four starts, the best stretch of his career. The left-hander gave up three singles and two walks in 7 2/3 innings, his longest outing since May 21.
The Red Sox have shutout victories in three of their last four games, including two at Baltimore. They are 7-1 on a trip that ends Sunday. Boston wraps up the regular season at Fenway Park with three games against Toronto and four against Houston.
Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi, who grew up in suburban Madeira and had hundreds of relatives and friends in the stands for the series, singled home a run in the seventh at the ballpark where he regularly attended games as a youth.
Mookie Betts, who fouled a ball off his left foot Friday night, and Dustin Pedroia, who has been bothered by a knee injury almost all season, were out of the Red Sox lineup Saturday against the Reds in Cincinnati.
Chris Young started in right field for Betts and Brock Holt at second base for Pedroia.
Betts was scratched from the original lineup but was a late scratch. Pedroia, who had been getting intermittent days off to rest his knee was originally expected to play but needed treatement and hopes to be able to play Sunday, according to Scott Lauber of ESPN.
Manager John Farrell told reporters, including Christopher Smith of MassLive.com, that Betts "was hindered by it last night in the second half of that game. [He] woke up a little bit more sore. Went through treatment. But felt it was best to give him a day to fully recover and get some additional treatment."
The manager added that Betts was available to pinch hit Saturday and did not have X-rays, but that step could be taken if there's no improvement in the next 24 hours.