The end of perfection: How Koji Uehara viewed end of streak
|09.18.13 at 12:02 am ET|
There was a sense of disappointment and frustration in the Red Sox clubhouse on Tuesday with the end of closer Koji Uehara‘s run of 37 straight batters retired, but it did not emanate from the author of the streak.
To be sure, Uehara — after permitting his first baserunner in exactly a month, dating to August 17 — felt chagrined after he permitted a leadoff triple to center by Danny Valencia in the top of the ninth inning, but his sentiment was a function not of his individual performance but instead in the collectively shared outcome of the game. That he gave up a triple was insignificant; that he permitted the game-winning run (the first run he’d permitted in 30 1/3 innings, the longest scoreless streak by a Red Sox reliever since Dick Radatz reeled off 33 straight shutout frames in 1963) on a Matt Wieters sac fly in a 3-2 Orioles victory was not.
“I’m not disappointed that the streak ended. Of course, I’m disappointed that we lost, but the streak wasn’t a disappointment,” Uehara said through translator C.J. Matsumoto. “When I was pitching, I didn’t think about the streak at all. All the disappointment is that the team lost.”
Uehara suggested that the pitch that Valencia lined to center for his three-bagger — a 90 mph fastball on an 0-2 count — was not a terrible one.
“It was probably a little bit higher than I wanted, but location-wise, I didn’t really miss the spot,” said Uehara. “A little bit high.”
That Valencia tripled to center — just out of the reach of Shane Victorino, playing there in the absence of Jacoby Ellsbury — represented a remarkable development in the eyes of the Orioles. It required not only Uehara to give up hard contact, but also Victorino — a three-time Gold Glover who stands an excellent shot at a fourth such honor for his work this year in right — to come up short of corralling the liner.
“You don’t like your chances there with Koji,” O’s manager Buck Showalter acknowledged of his former reliever. “Finally found one ball Victorino couldn’t run down.“
The inability to haul in Valencia’s rocket stood in contrast to a play Victorino made just a couple innings earlier, when he tracked down a Nick Markakis liner over his head to make a run-saving, over-the-shoulder catch with his back to the plate in the top of the sixth inning.
“He makes a heck of a catch an inning or two before on a ball that kind of sailed, or tailed back over his head, he makes a catch behind his head. He’s had many games out there in center field and we feel very comfortable with him in that position,” said Sox manager John Farrell. “He goes a pretty long way on a ball that was well struck. And it just goes off the end of his glove for the obvious triple.”
Though there was a high degree of difficulty on the Valencia play, and the liner was ruled a triple rather than an error, Victorino lamented his inability to make a play that he considered within his abilities.
“Every ball is catchable. You know what I mean? That’s how I look at it. It eats at me that I came that close and I didn’t catch it. That makes me more upset. I go that far and I don’t catch it. That’s the part that eats at me. Every ball that’s hit, I look at it as, I should catch it,” said Victorino. “[Uehara's streak was] the kind of stuff, you don’t see it often.
“I knew it was a tough play, I’d do the best I could — but to see it end that way, that’s frustrating,” he continued. “To see what he’d done, it was amazing. It was great. It sucks that I had a play that I was involved in that ends that streak. But hey, we pick up and go. It’s been [inaudible] since he’s taken that role, he’s done a great job, he’s been energy to the back end of the bullpen and everything about it. Things like that just don’t happen. It’s impressive. It just sucks that I was part of a play that ended the streak, and the guy ended up scoring. Yeah, it’s going to eat at me, but I’m going to go out there tomorrow and catch the ball at the end.”
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