Impenetrable Red Sox closer allows first homer since June 30
ST. PETERSBURG -- By all accounts, it wasn't a pitch you could do much of anything with but swing and miss, something Red Sox pitching coach Juan Nieves has seen countless times this year when Boston calls on its superhuman closer Koji Uehara.
"It was a disgusting pitch," Rays starter Alex Cobb said of the 0-1 offering Uehara, who carved up the side in Game 2, gave to Jose Lobaton two outs into the ninth inning. "It was a down-and-away splitter and just not a pitch that gets hit out of the ballpark."
It was tough to tell what was more incredible Monday night: that Lobaton was able to barrel up the low pitch and send it into the Rays Touch Tank, or that Uehara actually gave up a run. The best closer in baseball, the right-hander hadn't allowed a homer since June 30, a stretch of 37 outings, and had allowed just one run over his previous 38 games.
For Uehara to give up a two-out walk-off homer on baseball's biggest stage?
"You don't expect it," Red Sox outfielder Shane Victorino said of the blast, which handed Boston a 5-4 loss and forced Tuesday's Game 4. "We have all the confidence in the world in Koji, what he's been able to do all year long. So you don't expect it. I think that's what makes it a little bit tougher."
"He's human," David Ortiz said of Uehara, who hadn't allowed a run against the Rays this season, a stretch of 10 2/3 innings, until Lobaton dug in. "He's not from some other planet. We're happy we have him. The way he has performed for us. Situations like that are going to happen. The guy just went down to get it. What else can you do?"
Move on, quickly, which is exactly what Uehara plans to do. Asked if he was eager to get back out on the field and put Monday behind him, Uehara said through his interpreter that he already had.
"It's something that's in the past already," he said, after admitting that initially watching the ball clear the fence was tough to swallow. "So, I'm not going to think about it."
That's good news for a Red Sox team that wouldn't be here without its lockdown righty. Signed this winter, Uehara has been a huge factor in Boston's success -- posting a 1.09 ERA in 73 games -- and will be counted on again on Tuesday in Game 4 (live on TBS at 8:30 p.m. ET) if the situation arises.
"Nobody would have expected this, but hey, it happened. And I'll hand the ball to Koji tomorrow if we need to," Victorino said. "I have all the confidence in him. It's just something that happened."
Added catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia: "He's human. You guys have to remember, he's a human being. Things are going to happen. The good thing is, he's able to bounce back. He's done it all year long. Don't expect anything different."