Uehara, Tazawa World Series champs with Red Sox

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BOSTON (Kyodo) — Japanese closer Koji Uehara got the final three outs in the decisive game and the Boston Red Sox beat the St. Louis Cardinals 6-1 in Game 6 to clinch the World Series on Oct. 30.

Jnichi Tazawa uhad one third of an inning of scoreless relief as the Red Sox won the series 4-2. Boston won its first World Series title in six years and eighth overall. Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz was named Series MVP.

“There is no greater happiness,” said Uehara, who overcame one poor outing when he was on the mound when the Cardinals scored the winning run in Game 3 but finished with two saves in four games.

“The only thing that mattered was winning, so I went to the mound thinking I could (afford to give up) one or two runs.”

A year ago, Uehara was released by the Texas Rangers following a poor stretch, and signed with the Sox, who expected him to be a middle reliever. Instead, he had a superlative season, saving 21 games in half a season as the team’s closer and striking out 101 batters in 74-1/3 innings, while walking nine.

“I was performing so far over my head this season that it was scary,” he said. “But it’s finally over and I’m really eager to take a break.”

Japanese Hall of Famer Shigeo Nagashima, who managed Uehara when he became the ace pitcher of the Yomiuri Giants in Japan’s Central League, praised his former star.

“Throughout the grueling postseason, he took the mound with never a sign of losing heart,” Nagashima said. “He was as defiant as a weed and flourished.

“His pitching style has changed since his days with the Giants, but the unsurpassed mental strength he showed when we battled together has not changed at all.”

Tazawa, the first marquee amateur to snub Nippon Professional Baseball and sign with a big league club, was also the only player last autumn with a major league contract who was not asked to play for Japan in this year’s World Baseball Classic. He pitched in 71 games this season for the Sox, and pitched in four Series games. Like Uehara, he allowed a costly hit in Game 3, but bounced back.

“I’m thankful to the manager for using me this season,” said Tazawa, who relieved starter John Lackey with two on and two out in the seventh.

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