COMMENTARY | It's no secret that the Boston Red Sox bullpen has been struggling all season. Their ever inflating ERA has ballooned to 4.22, good for 6th worst in MLB. But through it all, Koji Uehara has been a steadying presence, saving the stable of pitchers from being a complete embarrassment.
Among the Final Vote candidates--all relievers--Uehara boasts the lowest WHIP, most strikeouts per nine innings, third-most WAR and the second-most saves, despite only being the team's closer for a few short weeks. With a 1.88 ERA and 0.81 WHIP, he has been as reliable as they come late in games. At 38 years old, he's put together quite an impressive run compared to guys 10 years younger than him. What he's doing at his age is nothing short of remarkable.
Uehara's candidacy can be best exemplified by a June 10th game against the Tampa Bay Rays. After throwing 31 pitches the night before, he was called upon by manager John Farrell in the bottom half of the 11th inning.
This was a night where the Red Sox jumped out to a six-run lead before the game's first out. Tampa Bay slowly clawed back to tie it, and after seeing Boston retake the lead in the top of the 10th, tied it again half an inning later.
Entering an 8-8 game having pitched the night before and with Tampa Bay holding all the momentum, Uehara had every reason to let the Rays finish the job. But he didn't--three up, three down. An empty bullpen and an inning later, Farrell sent him back out for round two. He punctuated his second perfect inning with a strikeout of Ben Zobrist who, to that point, had five hits in six at-bats.
The Red Sox would go on to win the emotional game in the 14th, but they couldn't have done it without Uehara's clutch performance.
It was the type of outing that Red Sox fans have come to expect from Uehara and it's why Farrell was comfortable tabbing him as the team's third closer this season.
His love for the game is infectious, routinely handing out high fives to everyone in the dugout after each perfect inning. MLB has taken note, giving him the voting hashtag #HighFiveCiti. Teammates have taken to Twitter to help promote his cause. Everyone from Shane Victorino to Mike Napoli to Jon Lester have joined in, and even the official Boston Red Sox account has taken to the cheerleading.
While Sox fans may rather see his arm get a rest before their playoff push, an All-Star appearance would be Uehara's first major North American notch on his belt. He's won a multitude of major NPB awards during his time with the Yomiuri Giants, but has yet to be recognized in his now 5th MLB season.
Joaquin Benoit, Steve Delabar, David Robertson and Tanner Scheppers are all having strong seasons, but none have quite matched what Uehara has done in 2013. His numbers have been strong since entering the MLB as a 34 year old rookie in 2009. It's time for him to get his due.
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- Sports & Recreation
- Koji Uehara
- Boston Red Sox
- John Farrell