When Tampa’s Jose Lobaton hit a walk off home run at the Trop last night to defeat Boston 5-4 in game three of the ALDS, it was no reflection on the Baltimore Orioles. However the play was in a small manner related to the O’s, as the walk off homer came off of former Oriole Koji Uehara. As many fans will remember, Uehara came to America from the Japanese League in 2009 and signed with the Birds. He was originally thought of as a starter, but when it became obvious that he didn’t have the endurance to go deep into games he was converted into a reliever.
Uehara enjoyed his time with the O’s, and ultimately proved to be a valuable commodity as he was traded to Texas in 2011 for Tommy Hunter and – AHEM! – Chris Davis. At the time I recall that Uehara was heartbroken to leave the Orioles, and he still speaks fondly of his time in Baltimore. However this past off season he caught on in Boston as a member of the Red Sox, and has probably been the most valuable piece of their bullpen. Over time I’ve heard Orioles fans lament about how Uehara never seemed capable of giving results like he has in Boston while he was a member of the Orioles. However one only has to look at the pieces that are in Baltimore in Uehara’s stead to justify the trade.
That was Uehara’s first loss of blown save since June, which shows how lights out he’s been. Boston leads the American League Division series two games to one, with game five (another elimination game for Tampa) starting at 8:30 PM tonight. If Tampa is able to win that game they’d send the series back to Boston for an elimination game for both teams at Fenway Park. Speaking for myself, if I’m John Farrell I’d have no problem handing the ball to Uehara again tonight if the situation warrants it. He’s been their best reliever down the stretch, and one blemish shouldn’t change that. And don’t forget where he got his start in the big leagues!