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!
Through Dice-K Matsuzaka’s first 10 starts of the 2008 season, the Boston Red Sox were a perfect 10-0 and the Japanese ace boasted an 8-0 record to lead all pitchers in the majors. Tuesday night not only did Matsuzaka not pick up the victory but the Sox fell for the first time in one of his starts, losing to the Seattle Mariners 4-3 at Safeco Field.
After pitching 4 innings and allowing 3 runs, only 2 earned, Matsuzaka came out to warm up for the 5th inning but after two warm up pitches appeared to wince and grab an area in his lower back.
“Even before I went on the mound, I felt things were a little bit off in the bullpen,” Matsuzaka said. “I wasn’t at my best. After pitching the fourth inning, I definitely felt there was something wrong, and I had a conversation with the coaching staff.”
Manager Terry Francona immediately popped out of the dugout and joined his star pitcher on the mound. After a short conversation through a translator, Francona had heard enough and called for David Aardsma from the bullpen to replace the injured starter. Matsuzaka is scheduled to pitch next on Sunday in Baltimore but is unsure if he will be able to make the start.
“We’ll certainly keep an eye on him,” Francona said. “They are going to ice it, let it cool down. … You just always have to err on the side of caution.”
The team has already been without former staff ace Curt Schilling who has been sidelined on the DL with shoulder problems all season. Recently they also lost Clay Buchholtz to the DL with a broken fingernail on his pitching hand, so losing Matsuzaka would be a huge loss at this point in the season.
When Matsuzaka left the game the Sox were trailing 3-0 and his perfect record looked to be in jeopardy.
Manny Ramirez picked up his teammate and belted a 3-run homer in the 6th inning to even the score at 3-3. The blast was Ramirez’s 499th career homerun, putting him just one shy of the 500 milestone. With his next round-tripper, he will become only the 24th player in MLB history to accomplish the feat.
The Sox bullpen held the Mariners scoreless through the 8th inning allowing only 2 hits over the 4 innings of work after Matsuzaka departed. The combination of Aardsma, Manny Delcarmen and Hideki Okajima were very effective in keeping the game tied.
Boston was able to put runners on base in the 7th, 8th and 9th innings but couldn’t advance them past first. They would strand 6 runners on base over the game and besides Ramirez’s homerun couldn’t seem to muster a clutch hit against Seattle’s pitching.
Mike Timlin came on to pitch the 9th for the Red Sox and his season struggles continued. After allowing a leadoff single to Wladimir Balentien, the M’s played some small ball having Miguel Cairo sacrifice Balentien to second base with a sac bunt. Jeremy Reed then took the ball the other way on a ground out to Dustin Pedroia at 2nd base, advancing the runner to third. Timlin intentionally walked Ichiro Suzuki to face Jose Lopez with two outs, and on a 1-2 pitch Lopez lined a single over the glove of Mike Lowell at 3rd, driving in the game winning run for a Mariners 4-3 victory. Timlin is now 2-3 on the season with a 6.89 ERA.
While the Sox continue to struggle on the road, the victory breaks a 7-game losing streak for Seattle. Boston is now 11-18 away from Fenway Park for the season.
In tonight’s rubber game of the series, Tim Wakefield will hurl against Eric Bedard at 10:10 EST. Wakefield is coming off of a rough outing allowing 8 earned runs over only 5 innings of work against Oakland on the first game of the road trip. Bedard is also coming off of his worst outing of the season where he allowed 9 earned runs over 4 1/3 innings or work against the Yankees last Friday.
Following the game the Sox will ship out to Baltimore for a four game series while the Mariners will welcome Detroit into town for a three game set.
Over the past 19 days, the Boston Red Sox have played ten games (three exhibition) in three different countries, against four different teams. They have already played three “opening days”, traveled 16,000 miles, and still have still yet to take the field for the home opener in Boston.
After a day off, the Sox will play the Fenway opener against the Detroit Tigers on Tuesday. The Tigers made some impressive offeason moves this year, but have started out 0-5. The Sox have also had a rough time recently, suffering a sweep by the Blue Jays in Toronto.
Daisuke Matsuzaka (1-0 2.31) vs Kenny Rogers (0-1 3.00)
Daisuke looked shaky at the beginning of his start in Japan, but has been solid since then. In his 11.2 innings so far he’s posted an ERA of 2.31, a WHIP of .77, and notched 15 strikeouts. Rogers had a great first start, but was stuck with a hard-luck loss by a lack of run support.
Both teams had a tough time with their previous series. The anemic Tigers offense batted .208 with 22 strikeouts in their previous series against the Royals. Sox pitchers have been having issues with home runs; three consecutive games in a row were blown open in the course of one inning.
With Matsuzaka on the mound, the Sox look ready to bounce back in front of the Fenway Park faithful.
Sometimes performing in front of a home crowd can add a lot of pressure on a pitcher. Last week, Dice-K Matsuzaka felt the heat and looked very shaky in front of over 44 thousand fans at the Tokyo Dome in his home country of Japan for the 2008 MLB season opener.
Last night, Matsuzaka looked like a dominant force and led the Boston Red Sox to a 2-1 victory over the Oakland Athletics in the two team’s stateside debut.
”It’s only something I can say in hindsight, but it would have been nice to pitch like this back in Tokyo,” Matsuzaka said through a translator, noting he’s more comfortable starting his second season in the United States. “I guess you could say I’m getting more and more used to it, but I haven’t really thought about it. A lot of it is how people perceive me, and that might be one of the results.”
Over 6 and 2/3 innings, Matsuzaka allowed only 2 hits, walked no one and recorded 9 strike outs. After allowing a leadoff home run to Jack Cust in the 2nd inning, the Sox temporary ace retired the next 17 batters he faced until he was relieved by fellow countryman Hideki Okajima in the 7th inning.
Manager Terry Francona was very happy with the performance his second year pitcher provided for the ball club.
“I thought he pitched with a lot of heart,” the skipper said. “He made a lot of good pitches. I thought the pitch to Cust was a pretty good pitch. He did a great job.”
The Sox trailed 1-0 until Jacoby Ellsbury’s RBI single scored Kevin Youkilis to tie the game 1-1 in the 5th inning. Youkilis was 3-4 on the night and plated both the Red Sox runs. The go ahead and winning run would come in the 6th inning when Jason Varitek slammed an RBI double to the right center field gap, knocking in Youkilis. The Sox captain came up with the big hit, but couldn’t say enough about his battery mate’s pitching effort in the win.
“He had good command of his cutter and slider. He put himself ahead in the count and that enabled us to utilize his strengths,” Varitek said. “He threw strikes with both his slider and cutter, to righties and lefties, then late he had some pretty good life to his fastball.”
Jonathan Papelbon recorded the last four outs, including striking out the side in the 9th inning for his second save on the year.
In the final match up of this four game, two country, week long series, the Red Sox will send Jon Lester to the mound to face off against Oakland’s Rich Harden. The two faced each other in Tokyo, Japan in the second game of the season a week ago with Harden coming away with the victory. He pitched 6 strong innings allowing only 1 run on three hits.
Following this series, the Red Sox head out to Toronto for a weekend series vs. the Blue Jays and then prepare to return home for their Opening Day at Fenway Park in which they will take on the Detroit Tigers on April 8th. During the pre-game ceremonies on opening day, the Red Sox will receive their 2007 World Series Championship rings.
Tickets are still available for Red Sox home games this year!
Have questions or need help? Call us. 1-800-MY-SEATS | 1-800-697-3287