Koji Uehara admits feeling fatigued as of late

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BOSTON — The book on Koji Uehara is out.

With the equivalent of a full season as Red Sox closer under his belt, hitters know he plans to retire them with fastballs and splitters. And they know he’s going to throw strikes.

Lots of strikes.

It came as no surprise then that the Cubs — a team that hasn’t seen Uehara in a Red Sox uniform before Tuesday — were aggressive in their approach in the top of the ninth inning at Fenway Park.

In a game tied at one, Anthony Rizzo jumped on the first pitch he saw — a splitter — and singled. Cleanup man Starline Castro saw five pitches before doubling on a fastball that caught a chunk of the plate. Luis Valbuena knocked in the game-winning run seven pitches later on a splitter he lifted to right field for a sacrifice fly.

After the loss, Uehara told reporters that he’s feeling “a little bit of fatigue.” He didn’t hint any any soreness, however, and didn’t blame his night on overuse.

“I probably need to get younger,” he explained through team interpreter C.J. Matsumoto.

Kidding aside, Uehara did admit that the command of his splitter isn’t where he would like it. Lately, that has translated into a handful of runs allowed.

Since a 2-1 win in Minnesota on June 18, Uehara has thrown seven innings, allowing four runs and seven hits.

Red Sox manager John Farrell said that when Uehara has run into trouble it has been against teams that were aggressive, as the Cubs were Tuesday.

“A number of early swings,” Farrell said. “When he’s giving up some base hits, it’s been on first or second pitch where he’s trying to get a strike. It’s not the true put-away split.

“That was the case with Rizzo tonight. I thought Castro laid off some pretty good splits to get deep in that count and then gets one up in the strike zone for the double. It’s been more in the early counts where we’ve seen some of the damage take place.”

It’s been unusual for Uehara to run into any trouble so his posting a 5.14 ERA in eight outings has been a strange sight. But his teammates aren’t concerned. 

Clay Buchholz — Tuesday’s starter for the Sox, who gave up one run in 6.1 innings — said that everyone on the team still takes a deep breath every time they see Uehara make his way in from the bullpen.

“Can’t go out and not give up a run every time out,” Buchholz said. “It’s impossible. As far as I’m concerned, he’s the best closer-slash-reliever in the game . . . Things happen. This game’s hard. Regardless of if you throw 120 mph somebody’s gonna get a hit off it and score a run.”

Catcher AJ Pierzynski had his closer’s back as well.

“Everyone knows Koji throws fastball and split pretty much, so he makes a good pitch he gets guys out,” he said. “It’s not like he’s been getting crushed all over the yard. He got a bunch of saves on the road trip. Threw the ball fine, like I said. Rizzo hit a good pitch. Castro hit a pretty good pitch, and then Valbuena had a good at-bat and hit one just far enough. I mean, I don’t know what you guys want.” 

Rightly or wrongly, these are the standards Uehara has set for himself. The good news for the Red Sox is that he doesn’t seem too far out of whack. He’s just a couple of weeks removed from polishing off a streak of 21 consecutive scoreless innings.

And his plan for getting back into a groove, like his approach on the mound, was remarkably simple as he explained it.

“Just get some sleep . . . eat well,” he said. “I think it comes down to the basic stuff.” 

Sean Manaea pitches the first no-hitter of 2018

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Athletics southpaw Sean Manaea delivered his first career no-hitter against the Red Sox in a decisive 3-0 victory on Saturday night. Any thought of a perfect game was banished in the first at-bat, when Mookie Betts drew a leadoff six-pitch walk to open the first inning. From there, Manaea was nearly flawless, holding the Sox to four total baserunners and striking out 10 of 30 batters faced — a career record.

Manaea was gifted a three-run lead thanks to RBI doubles from Jed Lowrie and Stephen Piscotty and Marcus Semien‘s solo shot off of Chris Sale in the fifth inning. While the Red Sox managed to draw two walks off of Manaea, they didn’t come anywhere close to plating a run. Andrew Benintendi tried to break up the no-no in the sixth inning with an infield hit down the first base line, but strayed out of bounds and later saw his hit reversed on a call of batter interference.

Entering the ninth inning, the 26-year-old lefty was sitting at just 95 pitches through eight frames of no-hit ball. He quickly deposed Blake Swihart and Mookie Betts with a groundout and fly out, then walked Benintendi on seven pitches. Any threat the Red Sox might have posed was soon eliminated, however, as Hanley Ramirez ground into a force out to complete the no-hitter.

Manaea is the first A’s pitcher to toss a no-no since Dallas Braden’s perfect game against the Rays eight years ago. The last time the Red Sox were on the losing end of a no-hitter was also against an AL West rival, when the Mariners’ Chris Bosio clinched a 2-0 no-no on April 22, 1993. Manaea’s feat is even more outstanding given how dominant the Red Sox have looked this season: prior to Saturday’s defeat, they boasted a 17-2 record and had yet to be shut out during the regular season.