Samurai in the pen

Eric D. Schabell
Contributing Writer

They come from a land far away.

A land known for the rising sun.

They come from a peaceful place, but bring ruin and despair to their enemies.

They are the Japanese Samurai.

The Red Sox have a bullpen of Samurai it seems, with Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara. With the starting rotation having injury issues, with the bullpen losing several key players, these two have stepped up and are commanding central roles.

Junichi Tazawa has started this season for Boston out of the bullpen. He has pitched 45 innings over 46 appearances, with 47 strikeouts against 7 walks, given up only 6 homers, and is sporting a nice 2.93 ERA.

This innings total has almost reached his total for the last entire season, so when the All Star break arrived, he mentioned he was a bit worn out mentally. It was nothing physical, but he was getting less swings and misses on his most used pitches, the fastball and splitter. There was loss of movement on his curveball, fastball, and splitter.

He had a few chats with his countryman Koji Uehara and that has gotten him back on track. He adjusted his grip and mostly his approach. He was becoming a bit tentative while trying to avoid leaking his pitches into the center of the plate.

Against the Rays, Junichi Tazawa was back to his aggressive attacking approach. He took over in the 7th inning, with a 3-2 lead. He struck out the first hitter on 3 pitches with the tying run on second base. In the 8th inning, he struck out 2 hitters and ended it with a ground out.

Tazawa entered with two out in the seventh inning, when Boston's lead was only 3-2 . He struck out Desmond Jennings on three pitches with the potential tying run on second base.

In a perfect eighth inning, Tazawa struck out two more in the heart of the Rays order. Ben Zobrist went down before Evan Longoria, who had just homered in his previous at-bat. A groundout ended the frame.

Enter the big K.

Koji Uehara closed out the save with a perfect 9th inning, striking out 2 hitters. He has allowed just one earned run over the last 21 innings he has pitched.

Andrew Bailey who?

Joel Hannrahan what's his name?

Who were the original Red Sox closers?

Can anyone remember, or do you not want to remember?

Koji Uehara has allowed only two of the last 24 batters he has faced to even reach a base. His ERA is down to 1.59 and he has 65 strikeouts in 45.1 innings. He has stepped up into the closer role as if it was tailored to fit him. Not even a transition period was needed, he just slid right into the role from the first day he was called upon.

The Samurai bullpen is combining to hold up the Red Sox backend when games are on the line. They do it reliably, consistently, and with passion.

The sun is setting on the perfect end to this story.

Post a comment or via twitter @ericschabell with your thoughts.

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