BOSTON -- Koji Uehara came into the Red Sox fold as if he needed to be handled with kid gloves. Manager John Farrell hinted in spring training that he was reluctant to use Uehara on consecutive days and wanted to be mindful of the reliever’s rest, softening that approach as the season began and then learning, not long after Uehara inherited the closer’s role in June, never to think twice about it.
It was in Anaheim on July 6, when Uehara was brought into a tense ninth-inning situation that never should have been tense, at least in Uehara’s mind. The Sox had a 7-3 lead entering the final frame and turned to Alex Wilson, who promptly loaded the bases with two outs. Uehara then came on and Boston lost the lead on two hits and an error before dropping the game in the 11th on a two-run homer by Josh Hamilton.
It was not a save situation when Wilson came on, but Uehara still felt that was his spot, and told Farrell as much after the game.
“It was a matter of giving him a rest when one was needed, but it was helpful from his standpoint that [he said], ‘I want to pitch in games where we’re ahead,’ ” Farrell said Wednesday prior to Game 6 of the World Series. “A save didn’t matter, and that was helpful in using him.”
Uehara’s astonishingly efficient work has made it a no-brainer by now, but Farrell was able to relinquish any hesitation in going to him as he has this postseason, when Uehara has made an appearance in 12 of 15 games, including all three games of the World Series in St. Louis and four times for more than an inning.
STAYING FOCUSED: Having the opportunity to clinch the World Series at Fenway Park for the first time in 95 years is a massive undertaking for the Red Sox on Wednesday night. On the surface, they aren’t showing any strain.
“The one thing we pride ourselves on is just remaining focused on the process,” manager John Farrell said. “To attach the result would be opposite to what we’ve done all year. We subscribe to that.”
Despite the massive ramifications of Game 6, Farrell related the feeling to finishing up a regular-season series, aiming for a sweep or a series win. The Sox were 32-21 in series finales during the year, just a shade better than their mark in the openers (31-22). The fact that the results are somewhat similar is an indication of the club’s mindset.
The players view this mindset as their duty.
“It’s the same focus that we’ve had since day one,” Dustin Pedroia said. “We’ve got a game today. We’re going to try our best to go out there and execute our pitch and play the game the right way and try to win that game. This is the game on the schedule that we have to play and try to win.”
Boston’s trademark during the regular season was its consistency and ability to bounce back from setbacks. It never lost more than three games in a row, and lost two straight at home on consecutive days only once after the All-Star break.
The club has dropped two in a row once during the postseason.
“If tomorrow comes, tomorrow comes,” right fielder Shane Victorino said. “But from day one we’ve all focused on the game that’s in front of us. What we have tonight, we understand the magnitude. There’s a lot of excitement. And there’s a gentleman across the way that’s been very good this whole postseason. We all understand and we're just going to go out and give it a hundred percent and leave it on the field.”
Bogaerts bats seventh: Red Sox manager John Farrell dropped Shane Victorino to sixth in the right fielder’s return to the lineup Wednesday night. He did not give any thought to filling that void with one of the team’s hottest hitters, third baseman Xander Bogaerts.
“Not given the guys that are ahead of him. Where we have him lengthens out the lineup as well,” Farrell said of Bogaerts, who is batting seventh in Game 6 against St. Louis Cardinals right-hander Michael Wacha.
Bogaerts is 5-for-17 with a triple in the World Series after hitting three doubles in six at-bats during the American League Championship Series. He has been one of the few bright spots for the bottom of the order, which has struggled throughout the postseason.
Bogaerts did hit sixth in the three games at St. Louis as the Sox adjusted for the absence of first baseman Mike Napoli.