Sunday, October 20, 2013

Red Sox reach World Series, Uehara named ALCS MVP

The Boston Red Sox entered the 2013 season with a mission, grow some insane beards, eliminate the bad taste of the 2012 season and get back to the postseason. They’ve accomplished all of that in incredible fashion reaching the World Series for the third time in the last 10 seasons after eliminating the Detroit Tigers four games to two in the American League Championship Series.

Shane Victorino, who the Red Sox received criticism for obtaining  in the offseason, launched a seventh-inning grand slam to turn the tables on the Tigers, who had taken a 2-1 lead in the sixth. Victorino was elated after the ball went over the Green Monster in left field and briskly ran the bases in tune with his nickname, The Flyin’ Hawaiian. From that point the Red Sox rode their lockdown bullpen (21 IP and one run allowed in ALCS) to the finish.

Junichi Tazawa had already snuffed a rally in the top of the seventh, getting Miguel Cabrera to ground out with two men on giving way to the Red Sox offense in the seventh. Lefty Craig Breslow took the eighth inning and continued his great postseason run with a flawless inning, setting down Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez in the process. Breslow has now thrown seven scoreless innings in the postseason.

While Victorino was the no-doubt hero of Game 6, 38-year-old Koji Uehara, whose spectacular performance throughout the regular season and playoffs has brought stability and confidence to the bullpen since being named closer, was named the ALCS MVP. Uehara allowed one hit in last night’s contest, but came away with two more strikeouts to give him nine in six innings during the ALCS. Uehara made five appearances and notched three saves in the series.

Uehara has the ability to get more than three outs and seems unfazed by the pressure of his role and the magnitude of the postseason. The Japanese right-hander posted dominant numbers during the regular season (74 IP, 1.09 ERA, 0.57 WHIP and 101 K) and it has continued throughout the playoffs in which he has allowed only one run in nine innings on five hits and no walks. He’s struck out 13 batters.

The Red Sox will face the St. Louis Cardinals, who punched their ticket to the World Series Friday night. It will be a rematch of the 2004 World Series which ended the Red Sox drought of championships in a dominant sweep. The World Series begins Wednesday night in Boston.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance sports writer/editor and the Director of Content Strategy for Sportsideo. Besides his work here, Chris is a New York Yankees contributor for Yahoo Sports. Connect with Chris on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.