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Tazawa gets aggressive, overcomes history with Jays

MLB.com

BOSTON -- Junichi Tazawa's unsightly track record against the Blue Jays alone might have given some pause when the Red Sox called upon their setup man with a three-run lead in the eighth inning. Sending him out to face the top of Toronto's talented lineup -- Devon Travis, Josh Donaldson and Jose Bautista -- looked to be an even tougher task.

"I knew my history against Toronto, but I wanted to stay aggressive, and I appreciated that they kept putting me in these situations," Tazawa said through a translator.

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BOSTON -- Junichi Tazawa's unsightly track record against the Blue Jays alone might have given some pause when the Red Sox called upon their setup man with a three-run lead in the eighth inning. Sending him out to face the top of Toronto's talented lineup -- Devon Travis, Josh Donaldson and Jose Bautista -- looked to be an even tougher task.

"I knew my history against Toronto, but I wanted to stay aggressive, and I appreciated that they kept putting me in these situations," Tazawa said through a translator.

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Tazawa proved up to the challenge as he sat down the three hitters in order after allowing Ryan Goins' leadoff single to help preserve Boston's 4-1 win on Wednesday night. Entering the game, he owned a 7.17 ERA in 23 career appearances against the Blue Jays, a number inflated just the night before after he allowed a solo home run to Donaldson in two-thirds of an inning.

The right-hander has given up just 22 career homers in 199 appearances, but the Blue Jays have taken him deep nine times.

On Wednesday, Tazawa threaded first-pitch strikes against both Donaldson and Bautista, capping off his scoreless frame by getting Bautista to whiff on a two-strike fastball.

"Location-wise, I had better command," said Tazawa. "Yesterday, I caught too much of the plate. But today, I was right on the black."

Video: TOR@BOS: Koji strikes out the side in a dominant 9th

Only one night removed from a poor overall performance by Boston's bullpen -- four relievers combined to allow six runs after Clay Buchholz's early exit -- Tazawa's clean inning, along with a shutout frame from closer Koji Uehara, were welcome sights for backstop Ryan Hanigan.

"We were sticking to a little different game plan. We were controlling the zone up and away," Hanigan said of Tazawa and Uehara. "They just got it done. Bottom line. Pitches I was asking them to throw, they executed. Got ahead of Bautista, that's big."

Alec Shirkey is an associate reporter for MLB.com.

Boston Red Sox, Junichi Tazawa