ARLINGTON, Texas -- Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington and his coaching staff had decided to give closer Joe Nathan another day of rest before Sunday's game even started. So with his club up 2-1 and runners on the corners in the ninth inning with two outs, Washington turned to Koji Uehara.
It clearly shows how much confidence the manager has in the right-hander, particularly against left-handed batters. Michael Saunders came up with a chance to tie the score and Uehara went to his splitter, which has become a real weapon against lefties.
"He’s a very good pitcher," Washington said. "He’s fresh and he’s got all his stuff working right now. He came in today and proved that."
Uehara is pitching with confidence. He has appeared in five of the last six games. Since giving up a hit to the one batter he faced Tuesday, he's retired every left-handed batter he's seen. After he retired Saunders, Uehara pumped his fist and was very emotional. It was his first save since Oct. 3, 2010, for the Baltimore Orioles.
"I'm always excited," Uehara said through an intrepreter after the game. "I've been away from the game for 2 1/2 months this season and the guys around have been working their tails off this season. Now I get a chance to get their back, in a sense."
He can thank that splitter, which is certainly baffling hitters.
"At the beginning of the season, I have to admit that I was struggling with the split, but I've been working on a different grip," Uehara said. "That seems to be working."