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Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Bullpen wrap: Faith lost in Koji Uehara

By Jeff Caplan



DETROIT -- With heavy eyes and a soft voice, beleaguered Texas Rangers reliever Koji Uehara sounded like a man who doesn't expect to pitch again in the postseason.

"I have to say there's no confidence from the dugout, from Wash," Uehara said, explaining through a translator how he believes manager Ron Washington must feel after another disappointing outing in Tuesday's 5-2 loss in Game 3. "I have to say that."

Uehara is probably right. Called upon with two outs in the sixth inning to prevent further damage after the Detroit Tigers took a 3-1 lead and knocked starter Colby Lewis out, the Japanese right-hander immediately coughed up an RBI single to Austin Jackson on a 1-2 fastball. Uehara got the third out and Washington, knowing the heavy lifters in his bullpen had plenty of burn in the first two games, stuck with Uehara in the seventh.

Koji Uehara
Koji Uehara lasted just 2/3 of an inning and inflated his postseason ERA to 13.50.
Miguel Cabrera led off and likely sealed Uehara's fate. The AL batting champ crushed Uehara's 83 mph splitter, a moon-shot high and deep that disappeared into the Comerica Park lights. Long gone. 5-1. Series lead slit to 2-1.

For the first time, the ballyhooed Rangers bullpen that came into Tuesday's game boasting a dozen-plus innings of scoreless ball, didn't come through. For Uehara, a blaze of smiles and high-fives when pitching well, such failures have become a recurring nightmare, and he feels the pain.

"Everything went wrong. That's why the result came out the way they did," Uehara said of his outing that lasted just 2/3 of an inning and inflated his postseason ERA to 13.50. "The results tell me that ever since I came here I haven't been able to produce."

Worse, he doesn't know why.

"If I knew; I wish I knew," Uehara lamented.

Washington opted not to turn to Alexi Ogando in the sixth inning and trailing. Ogando had pitched 3 2/3 innings in the first two games and with the prospect of two more games on consecutive days, Washington knew he will need his highly effective flamethrower. Scott Feldman pitched four-plus innings of scoreless relief in Monday's Game 2 and was unavailable.

By the time the seventh and eighth innings rolled around, the score dictated that Washington leave Mike Adams and closer Neftali Feliz untouched. A full bullpen should be rested and ready for Wednesday's critical Game 4.

The Tigers, meanwhile, again received the better starting performance from the former Seattle Mariner Doug Fister, who allowed two runs in 7 1/3 innings. Former Rangers reliever Joaquin Benoit and closer Jose Valverde, who remained perfect in save situations this season finished the job in orderly fashion.

"I don't see any difference," Benoit said in comparing the two pens. "When the game is on the line, they have their guys and we have our guys. Whatever the bullpens do is how these games are going to go."