Even without Koji Uehara, the Boston Red Sox evened things up with arch-rivals the New York Yankees in their second of 19 meetings in the 2014 MLB season. After losing on Thursday, the Red Sox beat the Yankees 4-2 at Yankee Stadium in The Bronx Friday night, behind a solo homer by Jonny Gomes and a three-run shot by comebacking Grady Sizemore.
But ahead by just two runs going into the bottom of the ninth inning, Red Sox manager John Farrell shocked Red Sox fans and observers by bringing in former St. Louis Cardinals closer Edward Mujica to nail down the save, leaving the seemingly unhittable Koji Uehara sitting in the bullpen with his jacket on.
According to Farrell speaking after the game, Uehara, who has been simply dominant since assuming the Red Sox closer role in the middle of 2013, was experiencing “stiffness” in his throwing shoulder. Another report said that the Japanese star felt “slightly sore” in his shoulder while playing catch in the afternoon.
Uehara’s status is listed as “day to day,” reported Boston Herald sportswriter John Tomase.
Farrell says Uehara has shoulder stiffness and they sat him as a precaution. Felt it in pregame long toss. Day to day.
— John Tomase (@jtomase) April 12, 2014
The 39-year-old Uehara — a veteran of 10 Japanese baseball seasons before jumping to the U.S. Major Leagues in 2009 — last pitched on April 9, recording a save against the Texas Rangers at Fenway Park, pitching one inning and retiring all three batters he faced in that game. On the 2014 season, the regular Red Sox closer has allowed just three hits in five innings pitched. He has yet to allow a run and and has struck out seven.
The loss of Koji Uehara would be a severe blow to the Red Sox — but at the same time, the team’s sputtering offense showed at least some signs of life. Both Red Sox home run blasts came in the Red Sox four-run sixth inning, off of struggling Yankees starter CC Sabathia.
Sabathia, a 33-year-old, 6’7″ lefty has now allowed 14 runs and 2i hits in the first 19 innings he has pitched in the 2014 season — a situation that does not bode well for the Yankees who still owe Sabathia $71 million over this season and the next two — and possibily another $25 million in 2017 if Sabathia can avoid spending too much time on the disabled list.
Meeting the health requirements would activate a vesting option, tying the already flailing Sabathia to the Yankees — who signed him to an eight-year, $182 million contract in 2009 — for a ninth season.
On Friday the Red Sox sent their own left-handed ace Jon Lester to the Yankee Stadium mound. Lester gave up a solo shot in the second inning to Alfonso Soriano, and a run-scoring single to Kelly Johnson in the seventh. But Lester otherwise kept the Yankees in check, scattering six hits over 6 2/3 innings while fanning six and issuing two free passes.
Mujica retired the Yankees in order in the ninth to record his first save in a Red Sox uniform, while Lester notched just his first victory of 2014 despite pitching his third strong outing of 2014. The win was Lester’s 101st of his career, but all talk after the game was about Koji Uehara and his shoulder.