The Boston Red Sox have not played their best baseball on the road this season, but luckily for them Dice-K Matsuzaka has. Matsuzaka tossed another beauty Tuesday night to help the Sox beat the Seattle Mariners 4-2 in front of the Safeco Field crowd of 38,425 fans. The win improves Matsuzaka’s road record to a perfect 5-0 on the season with an outstanding 2.20 ERA in eight starts away from Fenway Park.
Dice-K threw seven scoreless innings before the M’s got to him in the eighth for their only two runs of the game. Through seven, Matsuzaka had allowed only two hits while striking out six batters before he was rattled for the two runs. It looked like he may have a chance for his second career complete game with the Sox but manager Terry Francona took the ball from him after he allowed three of the first four batters to reach base in the eight and opted to go with his bullpen which was the right move.
Hideki Okajima was able to hammer down the final two outs in the eight and Jonathan Papelbon was summoned for the ninth and needed only nine pitches to record his 30th save of the season.
The win moves the Sox a half game behind the Tampa Bay Rays who lost on Tuesday to Oakland by a score of 8-1. The loss for the Mariners moves them to a season-worst 24 games below .500 (38-62).
“I think the one thing we’ve noticed with Lester and Dice-K, the rest has done them some good,” Boston manager Terry Francona said. “But when they’ve gone out in the eighth, the ups and downs seem to have gotten to them a little bit which I think is understandable.”
J.D. Drew gave Dice-K and the Sox a 1-0 lead with a solo homerun in the top of the first inning. The homerun was Drew’s 18th on the season and came on a 3-2 pitch with two outs off of M’s starter R.A. Dickey. Dickey (2-5) allowed three more runs in the fifth inning on four hits. Drew and rookie Jed Lowrie both knocked in runs with sac flies and the other Boston run came on an RBI double by Mike Lowell which scored Dustin Pedroia.
“We had some tough games against (the Angels), and Lester comes in and slams the door and Dice-K follows in his footsteps,” Drew said. “The offense just had to score a few runs.”
Drew continues to pick up the slack with David Ortiz out of the lineup, belting 14 homeruns in his absence. Ortiz is expected to make his first start since May 31st this Friday night at Fenway Park when the Red Sox take on the New York Yankees.
This afternoon, the Sox will send Clay Buchholtz to the hill and will try to go for their first road sweep of the year. Buchholtz (2-5, 5.88 ERA) has not won a game since May 2nd and has lost his first two decisions since returning from the DL on July 11th. In those games, he has pitched well besides some first inning woes where he has allowed seven runs in the first inning over his last three starts.
“(We talked about trying) to manipulate the sitting down and getting back up for the first and time, and see how that works, and maybe we can break that first inning barrier that’s there right now,” Buchholz told Boston’s official Web site of his pre-game bullpen routine.
Seattle will counter with Felix Hernandez (7-6, 2.95 ERA). The 22-year old has dominant stuff but has not been getting a lot of run support from the Mariners offense. Hernandez has faced the Sox twice this season, beating them once at Fenway Park 8-0 on June 6th and losing to them 5-3 in Seattle on May 26th.
Following today’s game, the Red Sox will head back to Boston and resume play on Friday against the New York Yankees. Tickets are still available for the weekend series at Fenway Park!