KANSAS CITY, Mo. — C.J. Matsumoto works for the Red Sox as their Japanese interpreter. He’s a pleasant guy who shadows Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa and helps them communicate with teammates, coaches or manager John Farrell.
Koji and Taz know enough English to get by for the most part and plenty of baseball expressions don’t need much translation. C.J. is there to make sure the message is clear.
He also helps out with interviews and was a little busy after tonight’s 5-3 victory against Kansas City. Tazawa pitched two scoreless innings before Uehara finished off the Royals for his 12th save.
They were part of a bullpen that worked five innings without giving up a run following an erratic performance by Felix Doubront.
Uehara has not allowed a run over 16 consecutive innings. In his last 28 appearances, the 38-year-old righthander has given up one earned run on 10 hits over 29 innings with three walks and 40 strikeouts. Opponents are 10 of their last 96 against him.
The Sox are 26-6 when Tazawa and Uehara both pitch in a game. Tazawa was asked about working as the set-up man for Uehara.
“He’s been money,” Tazawa said via Matsumoto. “I know if I do my job that he’ll end the game.”
He’s been money? That’s a Japanese expression, too?
“We’ll sort of,” Matsumoto said. “That’s what he meant.”
Uehara has appeared in 54 games. His next appearance will trigger a clause guaranteeing his contract for next season. That’s just fine with the Red Sox.
“Whether or not people take note nationally, I don’t know. I know how important he is to our team,” Farrell said. “He’s been outstanding.”
Farrell has come to marvel at how Uehara approaches the ninth inning.
“You sit there and you watch him pitch and against a given hitter you almost feel he’s got a sixth sense when he’s on the mound,” the manager said. “When to elevate a fastball to reverse the count, fall behind on purpose to be able to use some of the hitter’s aggressiveness against his split [finger fastball]. He’s just got an exceptional feel for the situation.”
Uehara was told he pitches like a man with somewhere to go.
“It’s just my way,” he said. “When I was a starter in Japan there was a game I finished in two hours. If I did that now, everybody would be able to go to dinner early.”
• Jacoby Ellsbury showed all the elements of his value. He was 4 for 5 with two doubles, two RBIs and a stolen base. He also made several nice catches in center including a running stab in the first that helped save a few runs.
Ellsbury raised his batting average to .305. Combine that with an .806 OPS, 42 stolen bases, and above-average fielding and his value on the free agent market is trending up after a slow start.
“Seeing the ball, driving it. Getting some good swings on the ball,” Ellsbury said. “It started in Houston where they tracked down a couple of balls at the wall and then I hit a couple out. I just want good hard contact and I’m satisfied tonight that they fell in for me.”
• Will Middlebrooks marked his return to the majors with two hits and two RBIs. His first game for the Sox since June 20 was just about perfect for him after seven weeks in the International League.
“It was a good feeling to come back and help us win a game,” Middlebrooks said. “That’s all that really matters.”
Middlebrooks was an instant upgrade at third base. His righthanded power could be a significant addition.
• Stephen Drew continued his contributions, going 1 for 4 with an RBI. He has hit safely in 10 straight games. Going back to June 18, he is 34 of 103 (.330) with 13 extra-base hits, 18 RBIs and 14 walks.
• With the Dodgers beating the Rays, the Sox now lead the American League East by three games. It’s their largest lead since July 13. The Sox are 5.5 up on the Orioles and 11 up on the Yankees.
• David Ross started his rehabilitation assignment with Double A Portland by going 0 for 2 with an RBI. He was the designated hitter. Ross has been on the disabled list since June 15 because of concussions.
• Speaking of good guys, old friend Darnell McDonald was called up by the Cubs.
That’s it from Kauffman Stadium. Check back tomorrow for more.