The Boston Red Sox are going to the American League Championship series, but Game 4 was far from an easy win. In a game where only four runs were scored and each side recorded just six hits, pitching was crucial.
Sox starter Jake Peavy left after 5 2/3 innings, manager John Farrell made a call to the bullpen for Craig Breslow. Breslow came in, allowed just one hit and struck out four of the five batters he faced. Enter Junichi Tazawa for one batter, Matt Joyce. Tazawa struck out Joyce and out came Farrell again for his closer, Koji Uehara. Uehara struck out David Dejesus to end the 8th, then forced Wil Myers to fly out, James Loney to ground out, and got Evan Longoria(the man who changed this series on one swing of a bat) to strike out to end the series. The Red Sox jumped out of the dugout and celebrated their first series win since 2008.
There’s no need to talk about how much winning this series meant to the Red Sox in this column, it’s been written about enough times. What matters is that the Boston bullpen has the right stuff to take this team to the World Series.
It all starts with Craig Breslow, striking out the side in the seventh inning capped off a series in which the lefty was simply dominant in games two and four. When pitchers are in trouble, Breslow comes in and gets the Sox out of a jam. Dependable is definitely the word to describe the veteran reliever. If he can stay consistent against the winner of the Detroit/Oakland Game 5, he will be pitching in his first Fall Classic before he knows it.
Junichi Tazawa is often brought in to get one batter out and in this case the batter was Matt Joyce. The Rays outfielder was hitless in three plate appearances against the Japanese righty, so John Farrell played the matchup right for Tazawa to retire Joyce, who had a dreadful postseason.
Finally, it would have been understandable for Koji Uehara to have some jitters after giving up the walk-off to Lobaton in Game 3. The Sox closer was unfazed on his way to getting the last four outs to pick up the save and eliminate the Rays. Tampa will need him to keep that short memory going forward.
Every pitcher in the Red Sox bullpen had a different job in different situations on Tuesday night, but in the end they all did their jobs to hold Tampa to just the one run. On nights when the offense is slumping, those four men were crucial in making sure Tampa didn’t force a winner-take-all, fifth game. John Farrell’s club is looking strong in the ‘pen.