Three Asian names had their share of ups and downs in Major League Baseball action over the last several days:
A lost season for the Boston Red Sox continued to bring more bad news as Monday the team placed closer Koji Uehara on the disabled list and said he would miss the remainder of the season. Uehara was diagnosed with a non-displaced distal radius fracture in his right wrist that he suffered on Friday night against the Detroit Tigers.
With the Red Sox up 7-2 in the bottom of the ninth, the Tigers loaded the bases with one out and Uehara was brought in as it was now officially a save situation. He struck out the shortstop Jose Iglesias, but then a line drive from second baseman Ian Kinsler hit him in the wrist. Although he was able to throw the ball to first for the final out, it was obvious he was in pain. He initially thought he would be OK, but the pain persisted and he got a CT scan with the full diagnosis announced Monday.
He was having another strong season, posting a 2-4 record with a 2.23 ERA, a 0.92 WHIP and 25 saves. He had only blown one save all season and since his fourth loss on July 17 against the Angels, he had thrown 6.2 scoreless innings and gotten three saves. He still has one year left on the two-year contract he signed prior to this season for $18 million, so barring a trade he should be back at the end of the bullpen next season.
The question for the Red Sox is now whom they will use to close games. Their main setup pitcher is Junichi Tazawa, who has been a very strong and consistent reliever with the team over the past few years. But it does not appear that he will be called upon as the new closer.
He has recently been struggling: In his 10 appearances since the All-Star Game, he has pitched 9.2 innings and given up six earned runs. He blew a save and got the loss against the Tampa Bay Rays on August 2, and in his next appearance on August 8 against Detroit he blew the save and got the loss. On the season, he is 2-5 with a 3.19 ERA, 4 blown saves and a 1.10 WHIP.
Red Sox Manager John Farrell also said the team will look to be more cautious with using Tazawa for the rest of the season because of the workload he has had to bear.
“Where we are right now, probably going to bring him in games where we’re either tied or ahead. Not to say we wouldn’t use down a run, but we’ve got an opportunity to manage his usage a little bit more,” Farrell said, according to The Boston Globe.
As The Globe notes, Tazawa has had 203 appearances in the past three seasons, including the postseason, which is third in the MLB during that span. It will be interesting to see how the Red Sox approach limiting him in any way, and if he will get some opportunities to act as their closer if no permanent replacement is chosen.
Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher Wei-Yin Chen was able to bounce back from two consecutive uncharacteristic starts and deliver one of his best games of the season Monday night against the Seattle Mariners on the road. Chen pitched 7.1 innings and allowed only one run as the Orioles defeated the Mariners 3-2.
In Chen’s last two starts, he threw a combined 8.1 innings, surrendered nine runs on 14 hits, four walks and three home runs. On Monday he really showed that he had a much better command of his pitches, and he looked more like the pitcher the Orioles knew prior to his recent struggles — one with a sub-three ERA whose only problem was a lack of run support from the team.
The Orioles gave Chen the lead in the top of the first off a sole home run by center fielder Adam Jones. Chen then allowed one double in the bottom half of the inning with one out, but he ended the inning without giving up a run. The Mariners then tied the game with a solo home run by Franklin Gutierrez as he lead off the second inning, but Chen retired the next three batters he faced.
In the third and the fourth innings, Chen allowed one base runner in each on a walk and a single, but neither led to any runs for Seattle. The Orioles retook the lead in the top of the fourth and from there Chen never gave it up.
He cruised through the next three innings, retiring all nine batters in order, and he came back out for the eighth and struck out first baseman Jesus Montero, which was the 13th batter in a row Chen retired. However, his pitch count was getting pretty high, and he then walked the designated hitter Mark Trumbo. At 111 pitches, Chen was pulled from the game.
The Orioles gave up a run in the bottom of the ninth, but they held on to a 3-2 lead and got Chen his sixth win of the season. He is now 6-6 with a 3.21 ERA. It was arguably his best start since June 15 when he threw eight shutout innings against the Philadelphia Phillies. One run is the lowest total he has given up since that game, and it was his longest outing in five starts. The 111 pitches was also a big factor in him being taken out of the game as it was the most pitches he has thrown since July 30, 2013, when he threw 119 against the Astros.
The Orioles are 6-4 in their last 10 games, but they now sit only two games back in the Wild Card race. They will need strong starts from Chen among others to continue to push for the playoffs.
The resurgent story of Dodgers relief pitcher Chin-Hui Tsao is no more after his brief return to the majors in July. The former top prospect has been with the Triple-A Oklahoma City Dodgers since July 26, and it does not appear he will get the chance to pitch again for the Dodgers unless he is brought up during September when the rosters expand.
Tsao was getting a lot of recognition because he last appeared in the majors with the Dodgers in 2007, but after injuries derailed his hopes of playing in the MLB, he became involved in a match-fixing scandal with the Chinese Professional Baseball League and was banned.
He had not played professionally since 2009 when the Dodgers signed him to a minor league deal before the season, and he was called up on July 8 and pitch for the first time in a MLB game in eight years on July 10.
Although his first two appearances were good and he allowed no runs in three innings, his last three were terrible: he allowed 9 runs (8 earned) in four innings and was subsequently sent down after his last appearance. He was then designated for assignment on July 30 as the Dodgers made room on their 40-man roster for a flurry of deals they were making before the trade deadline, but Tsao accepted an assignment to the minors. Thus he is no longer under a major league contract.
In his return to Triple-A, he has thrown 3.2 innings, gotten one save and given up no runs. The bullpen situation for the Dodgers is currently still a work in progress; it ranks 26th in the majors with a 4.19 ERA, but it does not appear though that Tsao is seen as a solution to its problems.
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