Following a flat start to his first major league postseason, Hirokazu Sawamura got the job done on Monday, helping the Boston Red Sox rout the Houston Astros 12-3 and take a 2-1 lead in the American League Championship Series.
The right-handed reliever took the mound in the ninth and sealed the win with a 1-2-3 inning, moving past an unhappy outing in Friday's 5-4 Game 1 loss in Houston, where he struggled to get a single out and allowed a costly run.
Entering with the Red Sox all but assured victory, Sawamura was under less pressure than in Game 1, but the 33-year-old felt a big responsibility to deliver under the bright lights at Fenway Park.
"This is our home. The team is a family and the fans are part of it, so for them, I threw with everything I had," said Sawamura, who did not pitch in Boston's 9-5 win in Game 2 on Saturday.
"Taking in everything around me, I think I was able to throw well. Now I can settle down and pitch."
Boston took control of the game in the second, when Kyle Schwarber hit the team's third grand slam of the series for a 6-0 lead. The Red Sox got further homers from Christian Arroyo, J.D. Martinez and Rafael Devers in an overwhelming display of offensive firepower.
In six innings, starter Eduardo Rodriguez fanned seven, giving up three runs on five hits and no walks to get the win for Boston, which is now 4-0 at home in the postseason.
Former Yomiuri Giant and Lotte Marine Sawamura is the only Japanese major league player whose club made the playoffs this year, his first in the United States.