Uehara surprised by his own dominance
Closer locks down save -- his seventh of the 2013 postseason -- to seal Game 5
ST. LOUIS -- Koji Uehara is 38 years old, has never been an All-Star, throws only two pitches and can barely crack 90 mph. And for some reason, he's been unhittable in the World Series.
He's surprising even himself.
"Not only the postseason," Uehara said through a translator, "but the regular season, the season overall -- it's been a surprise for me."
Uehara locked down another save in Monday's 3-1 Game 5 win, throwing 1 1/3 perfect innings and striking out two to preserve a two-run lead. It was his seventh save this month, tying him with Brad Lidge (2008 Phillies), Robb Nen (2002 Giants), Troy Percival (2002 Angels) and John Wetteland (1996 Yankees) for the most in a single postseason.
Uehara's next save would mean a World Series championship.
"I was expecting a lot of close games," Uehara said when told of the record, "so that part was expected."
Uehara and the four others who share the mark have benefited from the additional postseason rounds since the Division Series era began in 1995, but he and his fastball-splitter combo have been unhittable. In 12 2/3 playoff innings, he's given up only one run -- Jose Lobaton's walk-off homer in Game 3 of the American League Division Series -- on seven hits, striking out 15 and walking none.
Koji comes up clutch
|1. (tie)||Koji Uehara||Red Sox||2013||7|
|1. (tie)||Brad Lidge||Phillies||2008||7|
|1. (tie)||Robb Nen||Giants||2002||7|
|1. (tie)||Troy Percival||Angels||2002||7|
|1. (tie)||John Wetteland||Yankees||1996||7|
|6. (tie)||Neftali Feliz||Rangers||2011||6|
|6. (tie)||Brian Wilson||Giants||2010||6|
|6. (tie)||Mariano Rivera||Yankees||2000||6|
|6. (tie)||Mariano Rivera||Yankees||1999||6|
|6. (tie)||Mariano Rivera||Yankees||1998||6|
|6. (tie)||Rich Gossage||Yankees||1981||6|
|12. (tie)||Jason Motte||Cardinals||2011||5|
|12. (tie)||Mariano Rivera||Yankees||2009||5|
|12. (tie)||Manny Corpas||Rockies||2007||5|
|12. (tie)||Mariano Rivera||Yankees||2003||5|
|12. (tie)||Mariano Rivera||Yankees||2001||5|
|12. (tie)||Mark Wohlers||Braves||1996||5|
|12. (tie)||Mark Wohlers||Braves||1995||5|
|12. (tie)||Tom Henke||Blue Jays||1992||5|
|12. (tie)||Rick Aguilera||Twins||1991||5|
Those numbers, which led to MVP honors in the AL Championship Series, come after a season in which Uehara posted a 1.09 ERA, a 0.57 WHIP and an 11.22 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
"Experience has paid a lot of dividends for me," Uehara said.
Monday saw Uehara record his fourth save of at least four outs in these playoffs. With two outs and David Freese on second in the eighth, Uehara replaced Jon Lester and struck out dangerous pinch-hitter Matt Adams. Facing the top of the Cardinals' order in the ninth, he struck out Matt Carpenter looking, got pinch-hitter Jon Jay to ground out to first and induced a flyout to Matt Holliday, who'd homered five innings earlier.
"Every time he walks to the mound," manager John Farrell said, "it's one of the most calm innings that we'll watch, regardless of the stage, regardless of the importance of the game."
Afterward, Uehara was asked by a TV reporter if what he's doing is "magic," and he vehemently shook his head before even hearing the translation.
"I'm just a regular human being," Uehara said -- even though that's hardly been noticeable in October.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.