Tazawa's typical reliability taking a hit

Red Sox reliever tagged with fourth loss of season, blows second save in three days

Tazawa's typical reliability taking a hit

BOSTON -- While their bullpen has produced its share of shaky performances this season, the Red Sox have been able to use Junichi Tazawa in the eighth inning of tight games with impressive consistency. Lately, however, the right-hander has hit a rough stretch in which even his reliability has come into question.

Such was the case in Sunday's 4-3 loss to the Rays at Fenway Park. Tazawa, working with a one-run advantage in the eighth, gave up a leadoff double to Evan Longoria, an Asdrubal Cabrera ground-rule double and a bloop single by James Loney that lifted Tampa Bay.

The defeat squandered a solid outing from starter Wade Miley, who allowed two runs over 6 2/3 innings -- just the second quality start out of Boston's rotation in the last seven games.

Miley's strong start

"We felt like things were going to set up good with Taz in the eighth and Koji [Uehara] in the ninth," manager John Farrell said. "Credit them for putting some good at-bats together on Taz. Seemingly the confidence that's in him is as high as anyone on our staff coming into games late, even in tight situations. So it was setting up well.

"But once again today, we're able to score some runs early, give ourselves a little bit of breathing room. Wade gave us everything he had and more. But in that spot in the eighth, the two runs is obviously the difference."

Loney's go-ahead single, which came off an elevated 0-1 fastball, fell into shallow center just beyond the reach of Xander Bogaerts' glove.

Loney's go-ahead RBI single

"It probably wasn't a bad pitch. But I still take responsibility," Tazawa said through a translator. "I did give up the lead. So I'll prepare and do my best in my next outing."

Tazawa took his fourth loss of the season and blew his second save in three days. On Friday, he earned the win despite allowing two inherited runners to score on a pinch-hit double from John Jaso.

Over his last nine appearances, Tazawa has been touched up for 16 hits, including seven doubles and two triples, while posting a 4.82 ERA.

Cabrera's game-tying double

"[He threw] five consecutive fastballs to Asdrubal, which is a little bit uncommon for him. And the last one leaked back over the plate," Farrell said. "So even against Longoria to lead off the inning, trying to go down and away, ball ends up back arm side and close to Evan in that particular pitch. It's been fastball location that hasn't been as sharp in those moments."

All three hits came off Tazawa's fastball, which he threw on 11 of his 16 pitches.

"I did agree with the pitch sequence at that point," Tazawa said. "Looking back, I might have had other choices in that situation."

Alec Shirkey is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.