The last two games have easily atoned for the stinker the Red Sox tossed up on Opening Day, and the Sox head to Texas after vanquishing the Royals twice in a three-game set.
The story yesterday, of course, is the play of Daisuke Matsuzaka. Matsuzaka shut down the Royals, whiffing 10, allowing a walk and a run (homer to David DeJesus) and six hits in seven innings, topping out at 106 pitches. He also became the answer to a trivia question: Who did Alex Gordon get his first hit off of? With the way Matsuzaka is pitching, I’m sure that the answer will be greeted with “Wow! Really?” instead of “Who’s that?”
“I can’t say that my overall condition was that great today, but I think the role of a starting pitcher is to set up the game and give my teammates the opportunity to win,” he said through an interpreter. “I feel like I was able to do that today, so I was satisfied.”
Wow. He wasn’t on top of his game? Ask the Royals. Ask Ryan Shealy, who said “He mixes up speed on his pitches and moves it in and out. You can’t really get comfortable with him.”
The hitting supported Matsuzaka, even though the bats didn’t bust out until after he had left the game. The Red Sox opened up the game by having Kevin Youkilis walk and Manny Ramirez doubling him in. That would be it for scoring until the fifth inning, when Julio Lugo doubled to right field, stole third and advanced on catcher John Buck’s throwing error. Zach Greinke would hold the Sox in check for seven innings total, one earned run, seven strikeouts, one walk, eight hits … a fantastic outing for the 23-year old. David DeJesus popped a fastball over the right-field fence in the bottom of the sixth, and then Dice-K found himself starting to get hit, like in the fifth … but he fought his way out of it, just like he did in the fifth. He gave up a single, and then forced Mark Teahen to strike out with German being called out at second. Emil Brown doubled, but Matsuzaka bore down and struck Alex Gordon out.
“Major league hitters, after you go through the order once or twice, get a bead on you, and he didn’t let them,” Boston manager Terry Francona said. He started throwing different pitches on different counts. He came back in the sixth and seventh and was good as he was early.”
When Matsuzaka left after whiffing two of his final three batters (after setting down the side on K’s in the fourth) the Sox offense came alive against reliever Joel Peralta. Ortiz doubled to left, Manny sacrified him over, Drew was intentionally walked. Peralta gave up a wild pitch scoring Ortiz, followed by a Gordon error. Varitek struck out and Coco Crisp FINALLY did something, coming through with a RBI single. J.C. Romero and Jonathan Papelbon finished up the game, allowing only one hit (Romero: single to Esteban German).
I like it. The Josh Beckett game was solid and encouraging. The Daisuke Matsuzaka game was flat out fantastic. It was enjoyable to see the Japanese sensation come through with a brilliant start. His next start will come in Fenway Park, on Wednesday April 11th. He will then take the ball on Patriots Day. The Red Sox have a three-game set with the Texas Rangers coming up. It’s Tim Wakefield vs. Robinson Tejeda, Julian Tavarez vs. Kevin Millwood and Curt Schilling vs. Vicente Padilla.