Despite being born on opposite sides of the world 14 years apart and despite throwing with the opposite hand, Koji Uehara and Chris Sale have something in common: They both recorded the final out of a World Series for the Red Sox in the last 10 years.
Uehara, then 38, did so for Boston against the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 6 of the 2013 fall classic at Fenway Park, while Sale, then 29, did so for Boston against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 5 of the 2018 fall classic at Dodger stadium.
Uehara, a right-hander, got the Cardinals’ Matt Carpenter swinging on a 2-2 splitter on the outer half of the plate, while Sale, a left-hander, got the Dodgers’ Manny Machado to corkscrew into the ground and whiff on a 1-2, 84 MPH slider.
Both hurlers wrapped up historic seasons for the Red Sox with those respective punchouts, and both hurlers recently spoke to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal in separate conversations about what they recall from those special nights in late October of 2013 and 2018.
Starting with Uehara, the Japan native was coming off a dominant season in which he didn’t even start the year as Boston’s closer.
Season-ending surgeries for Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey resulted in Uehara sliding into that ninth-inning role in July, and he did not look back from there all the way until coming into the final frame of Game 6 of the 2013 World Series with a 6-1 lead to protect.
With the chance to secure the Sox’ first World Series win at Fenway Park since 1918, Uehara retired Jon Jay and Daniel Descalso in simple fashion, leaving Carpenter as the lone obstacle remaining.
Upon fanning the Cardinals infielder on the seventh and final pitch he would throw in 2013 to secure his club’s eight World Series title in franchise history, Uehara reveled in what he and the Red Sox had just accomplished.
“I realized that I didn’t need to throw anymore,” he said, through team interpreter Mikio Yoshimura. “It came purely from my complete satisfaction…how fulfilled I was. I can still feel the ultimate happiness when I look back at that moment.”
According to Rosenthal, Uehara considers recording the final out of the ’13 World Series the ‘pinnacle of his’ professional baseball career.
Turning to Sale now, the Florida native was slated to start Game 5 of the 2018 World Series for Boston, but that responsibility instead went to fellow left-hander David Price while Sale would be available to pitch out of the bullpen that night.
“We were like, ‘We’re in,'” Sale recalled him and Price’s meeting with then-manager Alex Cora following Boston’s Game 4 win over the Dodgers. “Me and DP high-fived, hugged it out. I looked at him and said, ‘We’re going old-school tomorrow.”
Price delivered with seven-plus quality innings of work in Game 5, while Joe Kelly finished the eighth and the Red Sox entered the ninth with a comfortable four-run advantage.
Sale had begun to warm up in the eighth, but after Kelly got through the frame unscathed, he sat back down until he got the call for the ninth.
“I remember running in from the bullpen,” Sale told Rosenthal. “The only two things going through my mind were, I have a four-run lead and I have three outs to get. Don’t trip on the way in.”
Sale did not trip on the way in, and he mowed down Justin Turner and Kike Hernandez in consecutive order before fanning Machado on four pitches to secure the series victory.
“It was like the chain didn’t catch. It happened so slow for me,” Sale said of the first few moments after recording the final out. “It was almost like strike three, OK, click-click, game’s over, click-click, holy shit, we’re world champions, we just won the World Series. It was like a delay for me. I got the third out. I took a couple of steps. Then boom, it hit me.”
Just recalling what happened that night gave Sale chills, he told Rosenthal. As it should considering how the 119-win, World Series champion 2018 Boston Red Sox are one of, if not the greatest team in the franchise’s storied history.