Heading to Fenway for Wednesday’s game, the excitement in the air was palatable. Daisuke Matsuzaka was making his triumphant arrival at Fenway Park, and his opponent was a player we had all heard about: Felix Hernandez. It was a match-up of nicknames (Dice-K vs. King Felix) … it was a match-up of foreign-born players (Matsuzaka in Japan, Hernandez in Venezuela), but it wasn’t even the biggest matchup of all. No, that belonged to Dice-K’s first opponent in the top first. He was going to kick off his Fenway career by facing the estimable Ichiro Suzuki, former Rookie of the Year, former Most Valuable Player. The person who had paved the way for Japanese hitters to come to America, one of the greatest hitters in Japan and one of the premier ones in America, was locking horns with the most heralded Japanese pitcher to date, following in pioneer Hideo Nomo’s footsteps.
We all know what happened: Dice-K got Ichiro out four times (whiffing once) but couldn’t stop the Mariners for plating three runs (although according to a friend watching on TV, Jose Lopez should have been called out on strikes in the 5th, which would have saved Matsuzaka two runs) and King Felix stole the show with a complete game one-hitter that J.D. Drew broke up in the eighth with a single just under the glove of a diving Jose Lopez, the eighth straight game in which Drew has reached base.
Irregardless, the excitement was there at the beginning of the game, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many flashbulbs go off at once for Dice-K’s first pitch to Ichiro. For goodness sake, more flashbulbs popped when Dice-K started warming up than for when David Ortiz walked to the plate to win a game against the Indians last year!
I was able to take pictures and several video. I had to retake video of King Felix several times, as his windup is actually pretty fast, while Dice-K’s is a bit on the slow side.
A funny observation: When Dice-K ran out in the top of the first, he stopped before the mound (staying on the grass) and turned around and looked at the umpire and Varitek (not sure why). The umpire motioned that it was okay to get on the mound, and Dice-K nodded and did a quick half-bow, then walked behind the mound and waited a minute (for the ball?) then started stretching as the umpire and Varitek stood there a bit uncomfortably, then Dice-K got on the mound and started warming up.
Dice-K’s path was going to be pretty hard, but the rainout changed things. After whiffing ten batters against the Royals while facing their young phenom in Zach Grienke and locking horns with the Seattle phenom in Felix Hernandez, Dice-K would have gotten the ante ratcheted up, facing the Los Angeles Angels and their phenom, Jered Weaver, on Patriots Day. If that wasn’t enough, he would have had yet another challenge next Saturday against the Yankees, slated to face returning hero Andy Pettitte.
Dice-K, however, now catches a break. Instead of pitching Patriots Day (argh! I lose the chance to see him again, and get … Julian Tavarez…), he will be pushed back one day to Tuesday, taking on Gustavo Chacin and the Blue Jays. He then will pitch in Fenway against Sean Henn (expected to fill in for Mike Mussina) and then head to Baltimore and take on whoever is supposed to fill in for Jaret Wright.
With yesterday’s Sox/Mariners game being postponed, the makeup game will shift to May 3 at 7 p.m. It will eliminate an off-day for the Red Sox (better early than in the dog days of summer or September). They’ll have just come off a three-game homestand at Fenway against the Athletics, and then will jet off to Minnesota for a three-game series on the fourth, and then grab an off-day before heading to Toronto. This means the Sox will play 23 games in 23 days, starting today through May 6th.
The Mariners get an off-day on the 16th, then will have played 15 games in 15 days before locking horns with the Red Sox, flying in from a homestand ending with the White Sox, then jetting off to the Yankees before finishing 25 games in 25 days back in Seattle against the Yankees.
What’s the answer to the Coco Crisp qualm?
How long in 2007 until Coco Crisp is deposed as starting CF?
* He will hold the job all year.
3642% of all votes
* Halfway through the year.
1821% of all votes
* In May or June, enough will be enough.
2631% of all votes
* He won’t last April!
56% of all votes
Hopefully the vast majority (51 percent) are wrong (that includes me, I voted for the second option… only because Pena and Ellsbury will be knocking on the door, making Crisp a valuable trading chip) because for the most part, if he loses his job, it’s because he wasn’t good enough to hold onto it – and I think we all root for his success.
Without further ado, here are the pictures and video I took of the game on Wednesday.
(These videos run off QuickTime for me, and just be patient. Let them load. FYI: They have sound. Do you hear all the camera flashes when Dice-K delivers?)
VIDEO: Felix Hernandez on his way to dominating the Red Sox.
VIDEO: Daisuke Matsuzaka’s first offical pitch at Fenway Park, a curveball to Ichiro Suzuki. Apparently, Ichiro was sitting fastball and Japanese people feel it was not “honorable” what Matsuzaka did – he should have pumped a fastball. Sorry, guys. It’s about winning.
See the pictures after the jump…
(Clicking the picture will take you to my flickr account, where you can see a bigger picture. If you click “All Sizes” above the picture, you can see even bigger ones.)