NEW YORK — There are few positions more superfluous in baseball than being the closer of a last-place team. But the Red Sox are making a change with 32 games remaining.
Junichi Tazawa is out of that role and will be replaced by Jean Machi, interim manager Torey Lovullo said on Sunday before a 5-4 loss against the New York Mets. Tazawa will go back to a setup role.
"There are a number of reasons for that; I think he just excelled in that role. He was so good in that role and that's what I expressed to him," Lovullo said.
It has been a rough month for Tazawa, who has a 9.31 earned run average in 10 games with opponents hitting .390 against him. He has three saves but also has blown three leads.
Tazawa has a 5.59 earned run average when pitching in the ninth inning this season. His ERA is 1.87 in the eighth inning.
"It takes time to get used to that last inning," Lovullo said. "There's nobody in back of you. You're the last guy standing. It's a pressure-filled spot."
Tazawa readily admitted that closing has been a challenge for him.
"The nervousness is different in the ninth inning. Going back to the eighth inning is something I'm familiar with. I'm comfortable with that," he said via translator C.J. Matsumoto. "The fact that the manager came up before the game and told me helps me a lot. I can be prepared."
Tazawa has been one of the best setup men in the game. But he doesn't have the goal of becoming a closer.
"I want to contribute to this team wherever I can," he said. "The role isn't something I think too much about."
Pitching coach Carl Willis isn't sure why Tazawa has faltered as a closer.
"It's a tough role to fill. You're talking about a guy who's taking the ball with basically the weight of the game on your shoulders," he said. "You have to have a short-term memory. It's mentally difficult."
Counting the 2013 postseason, Tazawa has appeared in 211 games the last three seasons. The Red Sox plan to use him only with leads or in tie games the rest of the way.
Machi was designated for assignment by the Giants and claimed off waivers by the Red Sox on July 28. He has three saves in 13 appearances but also a 5.40 ERA.
The Sox did not use Tazawa or Machi on Sunday.
David Ortiz had a pinch-hit double in the ninth inning on Saturday, the ball hitting the fence in center field.
It was a close play at second base but the Mets did not challenge the call. Manager Terry Collins told ESPN New York that the team's internal review showed Ortiz had hit a home run so they weren't going to challenge the double and risk Ortiz being awarded a home run.
The Red Sox looked at the video Sunday and said Ortiz clearly had a double and not a home run.
Ortiz had a no-doubt homer on Sunday, a two-run shot to right field in the sixth inning.
If at first
Ortiz has started nine games at first base, his most since starting 10 in 2006. He was charged with an error in the fourth inning, his first since 2009. Ortiz is 11 of 30 (.367) playing first base this season with five home runs and nine RBIs . . . The series drew 122,594 fans . . . The Sox would have to finish 21-11 to finish .500.
Ramirez on shelf
For the 12th time in the last 20 games, Hanley Ramirez was out of the lineup. He has missed three games in a row with a sore right shoulder. Ramirez is day-to-day, according to Lovullo . . . Ryan Hanigan, who was scratched from the lineup with a sore left calf, was available if needed but Blake Swihart caught again. Hanigan said he would be able to start on Monday . . . Steven Wright turned 31 Sunday. The knuckleballer, on the disabled list recovering from a concussion, has been feeling much better and is working out daily . . . Dustin Pedroia, who has not played since July 22 because of a strained right hamstring, will be evaluated on Monday. If cleared, he would increase the intensity of his workouts. He could return to the lineup in the second week of September.
On right side
New York mayor Bill de Blasio, who grew up in Cambridge and is a Red Sox fan, attended the final two games of the series . . . Plate umpire Joe West ejected Mets hitting coach Kevin Long in the third inning. Long objected to Curtis Granderson being called out on strikes. The pitch was well outside . . . Former Mets and Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine was at the game. He does television work in New York, among other endeavors . . . Tabloid talk show host Jerry Springer was introduced to the crowd. Thankfully all the chairs were bolted down . . . Alas, Red Sox center fielder Mookie Betts and retired Mets player Mookie Wilson did not meet over the weekend. Wilson attended all three games but he and Betts were never in the same place.