Do we have a Koji problem?

Red Sox closer Koji Uehara was tremendous in 2013 and an All-Star in 2014, but the warning signs haven’t been hard to spot over the last few months.

Justin Masterson hurls against the Orioles on Saturday night. (Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

Justin Masterson hurls against the Orioles on Saturday night. (Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

Do we have a Koji problem?

Red Sox closer Koji Uehara was tremendous in 2013 and an All-Star in 2014, but the warning signs haven’t been hard to spot over the last few months.

First there was the implosion late last season that cost him the closer’s role, though no one really cared, since the Red Sox were hopelessly out of contention.

Then there was the hamstring injury that robbed him of most of spring training, though he hadn’t pitched well to that point in Fort Myers anyway. Coupled with his 40th birthday in April, it was enough to make Red Sox fans at the very least wonder how viable Uehara would be come the start of the season.

And now? Now it’s time to wonder if the Red Sox will be redirecting some of their resources to the closing market in the next couple of months.

Throwing 85 mph fastballs and hanging his formerly devastating splitter, Uehara blew a 4-3 lead in the 10th on Saturday night and allowed David Lough’s walkoff solo homer in a brutal 5-4 loss.

The Red Sox had no business even being in the game after getting shut down by left-hander Wei-Yin Chen for eight innings, but they rallied to tie in the ninth on some atrocious fielding by the normally sure-handed O’s, and then took the lead in the 10th on Xander Bogaerts’ leadoff solo homer.

But Baltimore came right back off of Uehara, who wasn’t helped at all by right fielder Allen Craig, whose diving attempt at Adam Jones‘ leadoff bloop instead sailed over his outstretched glove and rolled into right for a leadoff triple.

But even if Craig had wisely pulled up and held Jones to a single, Uehara didn’t have the stuff to close out the O’s without help. Because his fastball velocity is down 4 mph from last year, he has relied almost excluslively on his splitter, which isn’t nearly the weapon it should be if there’s no fastball behind it.

Chris Davis lofted the game-tying sacrifice fly to left before Lough won it by launching a hanging splitter to right on a full count. He had flailed at two better splits earlier in the count, but Uehara has no margin for error, and when he missed the 76 mph offering up in the zone, the light-hitting Lough pounced.

And so now the Red Sox have lost three of four, with Uehara’s night overshadowing a big hit by Bogaerts, a strong start from Justin Masterson, and an opportunistic rally.

SWENSON GRANITE WORKS ROCK SOLID PERFORMER OF THE GAME: Lough entered the game with nine lifetime homers and a .347 OPS this season, but he made his second hit of the year count, taking Uehara deep to make a winner of the O’s.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

‘€“ After crushing six home runs in spring training, Mike Napoli started the season without a sniff of a long ball. That finally changed in the second when he ripped a two-run shot off the right field foul pole to tie the game at 2-2.

‘€“ Masterson started slowly, allowing two runs in the first, but settled down from there to give the Red Sox more than enough to win. He went seven innings, allowing three runs, earning his second quality start of the season.

‘€“ Right-hander Matt Barnes, summoned in the morning from Pawtucket to replace the injured Shane Victorino on the roster, escaped a jam of his own making in the eighth, stranding runners at second and third with one out. He was then in line for the win after a 1-2-3 ninth.

WHAT WENT WRONG

‘€“ Koji. The closer had nothing.

‘€“ Where’s the offense? Besides Napoli (3 for 4), the Red Sox did zilch with the bats. Two of their eight hits were infield gifts in the ninth.

‘€“ Mookie Betts’ struggles continued. The leadoff man went 0 for 4 with a pair of strikeouts as his average fell to .203.

‘€“ David Ortiz went 0 for 5 and struck out with the tying run on in the ninth, dropping his average to .194.

‘€“ Craig didn’t necessarily make a poor decision when he dove for Jones’ leadoff blooper in the 10th, but he executed it horrifically, letting the ball sail over his glove and roll into no-man’s land for a leadoff triple.

Blog Author: 
John Tomase

John Farrell has no intentions of leaving Brock Holt on the bench for long.

Brock Holt

Brock Holt

John Farrell has no intentions of leaving Brock Holt on the bench for long.

The super sub, who blasted a game-winning three-run homer on Friday to boost his average to .424, was not in Saturday’s starting lineup against the Orioles. Xander Bogaerts returned to action at shortstop, while Allen Craig filled in for Shane Victorino in right field.

Fans clamoring to see Holt shouldn’t have long to wait. Farrell told reporters in Baltimore that Holt will get the start in Sunday’s series finale.

“Yeah, he’ll be on the field (Sunday),” Farrell told reporters. “I don’t know where, but he’€™s going to be on the field. He comes up big multiple times for us. With a left-hander on the mound, every guy is important to us. We’€™re trying to get Allen Craig going, trying to get Bogey going. At the same time, yeah we’€™re trying to win every night we go on the field, but it’€™s going to take each and every guy on our roster and I can’€™t look past that.”

Holt, who bats left-handed, hit lefties better than righties last year, batting .293 with a .763 OPS against the former and .274-.682 against the latter. Baltimore is starting left-hander Wie-Yin Chen on Saturday night.

Blog Author: 
WEEI

The Red Sox on Saturday placed outfielder Shane Victorino on the disabled list with a sore right hamstring and recalled right-handed pitcher Matt Barnes from Triple A Pawtucket in time for their game against the Orioles in Baltimore.

The Red Sox on Saturday placed outfielder Shane Victorino on the disabled list with a sore right hamstring and recalled right-handed pitcher Matt Barnes from Triple A Pawtucket in time for their game against the Orioles in Baltimore.

Manager John Farrell told reporters at Camden Yards that Barnes arrives as support for a taxed bullpen. In particular, Farrell said he wants to stay away from right-hander Junichi Tazawa, who has pitched four times in the last five days and leads the league in appearances with nine.

“I’ve been going to Taz a lot,” Farrell said. “I’ve got to be careful with that.”

Victorino is hitting just .143 with a .474 OPS in 12 games. He was injured on Wednesday against the Rays while stealing second base. With Victorino sidelined, the Red Sox could use Daniel Nava, Allen Craig, or super sub Brock Holt to man right field.

Barnes was scheduled to start the second game of a doubleheader on Saturday with the PawSox. He’s 0-0 with a 5.62 ERA in two starts at Triple A. He’ll be used as a long man and in the middle innings.

Blog Author: 
John Tomase

One night after blasting the game-winning three-run homer against the Orioles, Brock Holt finds himself on the bench on Saturday as the Red Sox face the O’s in the middle game of their three-game set.

Xander Bogaerts gets the start at short for the Red Sox, who begin the day tied with the Yankees for first place in the American League East. Also new to the lineup is right fielder Allen Craig, who gets the nod over Daniel Nava with left-hander Wei-Yin Chen on the mound.

Justin Masterson gets the start for the Red Sox. For a look inside the matchups, click here.

Here’s the lineup.

1. Mookie Betts, CF
2. Dustin Pedroia, 2B
3. David Ortiz, DH
4. Hanley Ramirez, LF
5. Mike Napoli, 1B
6. Pablo Sandoval, 3B
7. Allen Craig, RF
8. Xander Bogaerts, SS
9. Ryan Hanigan, C
Justin Masterson, RHP

Blog Author: 
John Tomase

Jim Palmer couldn’t help himself once again when asked about David Ortiz‘ recent ejection prior to Friday night’s game, defending his stance

Jim Palmer couldn’t help himself once again when asked about David Ortiz‘ recent ejection prior to Friday night’s game, defending his stance that Ortiz was selfish in his actions.

“To put this to rest, all David Ortiz has to do in this three-game series is watch the way Adam Jones plays the game,” Palmer said. “If he hits a home run, he puts his head down, runs around the bases, doesn’€™€™t show anybody up. To me, that’€™€™s the way you play the game.

“He’€™€™s entitled to do it any way he wants, but when he throws his whole team under the bus, all the fans who came out to Fenway Park, it’€™€™s kind of like a puppy ‘€“€“ unconditional love ‘€“€“ but at the end of the day, if the puppy doesn’€™€™t do the right things, you need to housebreak him.”

That led to these comments from fellow Hall of Famer Jim Rice on the NESN postgame show.

“Regardless if he’€™s a Hall of Famer or not, who cried more than Jim Palmer? I mean, come on. Let’€™s be honest,” Rice said (see video here). “Palmer doesn’€™t have anything on me, and I don’€™t have anything on him, but I would tell it like it is. You cry just as good as anyone else, so quit complaining, and let the guys go out and play.”

When asked about the most recent comments by Palmer after the Red Sox‘ win Friday night, David Ortiz said he hadn’t heard them but still didn’t leave without one last shot.

“I’m not going to add any more followers to his account,” the DH said.

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

Jim Palmer couldn’t help himself once again when asked about David Ortiz‘ recent ejection prior to Friday night’s game, defending his stance that Ortiz was selfish in his actions.

“To put this to rest, all David Ortiz has to do in this three-game series is watch the way Adam Jones plays the game,” Palmer said. “If he hits a home run, he puts his head down, runs around the bases, doesn’€™€™t show anybody up. To me, that’€™€™s the way you play the game.

“He’€™€™s entitled to do it any way he wants, but when he throws his whole team under the bus, all the fans who came out to Fenway Park, it’€™€™s kind of like a puppy ‘€“€“ unconditional love ‘€“€“ but at the end of the day, if the puppy doesn’€™€™t do the right things, you need to housebreak him.”

That led to these comments from fellow Hall of Famer Jim Rice on the NESN postgame show.

“Regardless if he’€™s a Hall of Famer or not, who cried more than Jim Palmer? I mean, come on. Let’€™s be honest,” Rice said (see video here). “Palmer doesn’€™t have anything on me, and I don’€™t have anything on him, but I would tell it like it is. You cry just as good as anyone else, so quit complaining, and let the guys go out and play.”

When asked about the most recent comments by Palmer after the Red Sox‘ win Friday night, David Ortiz said he hadn’t heard them but still didn’t leave without one last shot.

“I’m not going to add any more followers to his account,” the DH said.

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford