These worst-to-first Boston Red Sox are one win from the World Series.
103 wins won't be enough this season, not for these guys.
The Bearded Boys of Autumn can thank the cleanest of clean-shaven relievers for getting them there.
How about #FearTheKojiUeharaSplitFingerFastball.
He was literally light's out in Detroit, as the Red Sox shut down Comerica Park perhaps until 2014.
You want great closers?
Koji Uehara's performance in this series stands along side Keith Foulke in 2004, Jonathan Papelbon in 2007, Don Draper in the conference room, Dwight Schrute in the Dunder-Mifflin office and Alec Baldwin in "Glengarry Glen Ross" in its dominance.
If coffee is for closers, Uehara deserves his own Dunkin' Donuts.
You want great great stoppers? Uehara and the Red Sox postseason 2013 bullpen ranks with red lights, brick walls, octagon-shaped road signs, cholesterol, Tim Thomas in 2011 [as opposed to Thomas Thursday night] and women's hygiene products when flushed.
The Red Sox have two chances to prolong the Improbable Dream this weekend at Fenway Park. Anyone who thought this predicament was possible in March was either Ben Cherington or completely delusional.
One win and the American League pennant is theirs. It would be the most unlikely pennant baseball's seen since Rick 'Wild Thing' Vaughn got the save in Game 7 against the White Sox in "Major League II."
A victory Saturday or Sunday will unleash a Fenway Park celebration that will make the champagne and Bud Light bacchanalia triggered by Boston's A.L. East title seem like your 4-year-old daughter's Teddy Bear tea party.
Keep the beer on ice and ghost of Mrs. Yawkey out of the clubhouse, just to be safe.
Amazingly, despite all the success of this franchise, its parade of Hall of Fame performers and the billions spent on team payroll, a pennant in 2013 would just be Boston's sixth in 67 years. But we spoil our children, as it would also be Boston's third AL flag in the past 10 seasons.
Sorry, Cubs fans, but we have higher standards.
When he was building this team amid the fallout of the Nuclear Winter, Cherington had thought he had resolved back end of the bullpen by acquiring Joel Hanrahan. He was a big, fat bust. By June, the Red Sox gone through Hanrahan, Andrew Bailey and Junichi Tazawa in the closer's role.
Uehara was eventually elevated into the Red Sox closer role in June after Bailey blew his fourth save of the season in Detroit on June 20 in Detroit. Six days later, he came in and pitched a scoreless ninth to pick up the save in 5-3 win the Rockies at Fenway Park.
The rest is becoming history.
Jon Lester left Thursday's game with a 4-2 lead and one out in the sixth. He got the well-deserved win, but it was the Red Sox bullpen that resumed its mastery of the Tigers. Manager John Farrell has become fearless in going to his now playoff-tested troika of Tazawa, Craig Breslow and Uehara.
They preserved Lester's and Boston's 4-3 victory. The Red Sox bats wilted again after Mike Napoli's Cadillac Fleetwood-sized bomb that landed in the center-field woods at Comerica Park had ignited a three-run third inning.
The biggest moment of the game came with Tazawa met Miguel Cabrera in a rematch of their Game 3 showdown.
Tazawa came in with one out and runners on first and second in the sixth and promptly gave up a base hit and a run, which was charged to Lester. But he cleaned up the mess as quickly as he made it, by getting Austin Jackson to ground into a 5-4-3 double-play that was highlighted by Dustin Pedroia wiping out his error in Game 4 with a nifty flip and throw over a sliding Brayan Pena.
Jose Iglesias and Torii Hunter started the seventh with back-to-back singles. With runners on first and third and the frustrated Tigers fans chanting "MVP!", Tazawa got Cabrera to bite on a 94 MPH four-seam fastball on a 1-0 pitch. Cabrera grounded into a double play. The Red Sox happily gave up the run in exchange for two outs. The only thing better for Boston would have been a triple play.
It was the bullpen's first earned run allowed this series in 15.2 innings.
Breslow got the third out of the seventh and first out of the eight.
That set up Uehara's latest masterpiece. Five outs. No base runners. We learned during the Fox broadcast that Uehara in 2013 the lowest WHIP [0.565] of any reliever in major-league history. The previous record-holder was Dennis Eckersley. One is having a hall of fame season for the Red Sox and the other is a former Red Sox Hall of Famer.
Uehara has even gotten his [hopefully lone] Eck-Kirk Gibson moment out of the way already this postseason with the ninth-inning walk-off home run he served up to Jose Labaton in Game 3 of the ALDS at Tropicana Field.
Uehara threw 27 pitches Thursday, which is like 270 pitches in Josh Beckett terms. Nineteen of those pitches were strikes.
Uehara dispatched the Tigers without mercy in the ninth inning. Perhaps he finally put a stake in the heart of the "Jose Iglesias trade" debate by getting the former Red Sox shortstop to end the game with a meek pop up.
Uehara is being paid $4.25 million this season and earned an option worth up to $5 million in 2014 with his 55th appearance of the season in August.
It could become best $9 million the Red Sox ever spent.
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