With late-inning reliever Tazawa unavailable, Farrell summons rookie in extras
By Alec Shirkey
BOSTON -- As their Friday night deadlock with the Astros rolled on into the 10th inning at Fenway Park, and with closer Koji Uehara no longer available after a scoreless ninth, the Red Sox needed another late-inning stopper to suppress the potent top of Houston's lineup.
In other words, the setup was perfect for Sox setup man Junichi Tazawa. But with the coaching staff advised to give the heavily-used righty another day off, Boston instead sent rookie Noe Ramirez out for his big league debut to face the likes of Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa.
The move did not work out as either Ramirez or the team had hoped. The 25-year-old right-hander surrendered four runs (two earned), and the Red Sox suffered a 12-8 defeat.
And so the question lingered: Why was Tazawa, who had not pitched since Sunday, not deployed in a game with so many critical junctures?
"He threw a bullpen [session] earlier today," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "After the bullpen, he was deemed OK. And yet, [we were] advised not to use him tonight, to not get him warmed up or hot twice in one day."
Through 82 games, Tazawa leads Boston's bullpen in appearances (37) and entered Friday tied for seventh among American League relievers in that same category. The heavy workload, combined with his usage during the week from June 21-28 (five innings) led to the team shying away from their reliable right-hander.
Ramirez, who took the loss in his debut, allowed three hits and struck out one in one inning. The first three Astros batters reached base on a hit-by-pitch, an error by first baseman Mike Napoli and a single Correa laced into left to plate the go-ahead run.
The damage only accumulated from there.
"I've got to limit my mistakes," Ramirez said. "I left too many balls up in the one. That's something that a good-hitting team is going to take advantage of, so I'm definitely going to limit my mistakes, keep the ball down a little bit. The slider, throw it with more conviction. There were a couple I felt really comfortable throwing but just have got to stay at that level every time."
Coincidentally, Ramirez became the first Boston pitcher to debut in extra innings since Tazawa did so against the Yankees on Aug. 7, 2009.
The 40-year-old Uehara, meanwhile, has not pitched more than one inning in any outing this season. The Sox did not consider him an option to go multiple frames.
"With knowing this probably has a chance to get into an extended situation, Ramirez and Koji were the last two guys in our bullpen," Farrell said. "In a tie game, [we're] not going to pitch him two innings."
The other natural spot to have used Tazawa arose in the eighth inning, with the right-handed-hitting Correa and Domingo Santana due up. Instead, the Sox were forced to rely on lefty Craig Breslow, who served up a solo home run to Correa.
Tazawa will be available to pitch against the Astros on Saturday.
"That was the plan laid out for him, to get on the mound today but not be available tonight," Farrell said. "Otherwise, he would have been available in the eighth or the 10th in either of those situations."
For the Red Sox, who fought back to tie the game three times, this outcome could sting for a few days. But the optimistic Justin Masterson saw it differently.
"What makes it great is that we did fight back," Masterson said. "And though we kind of lost it at the end, we continue to fight. We got down, we got up, down, came back, down, came back. That uplifts the guys just in itself. Especially the way we've been playing lately has been tremendous. And so to see that, it just means us as pitchers didn't do as well as we would've liked tonight, but the guys are still fighting hard and I think we're going to carry that into tomorrow."
Alec Shirkey is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.