Daisuke Matsuzaka Flirts With No-Hitter As Red Sox Blank Phillies


May 22, 2010

Daisuke Matsuzaka Flirts With No-Hitter As Red Sox Blank Phillies Postgame, Red Sox 5-0: There was only one topic to discuss in the Red Sox clubhouse, and we received reaction from Daisuke Matsuzaka and others, each of whom felt that it was a night of destiny after Matsuzaka caught a scorched line drive in the seventh and Adrian Beltre did the same in the eighth.

Alas, the club has to settle for its first combined one-hitter in nearly four years.

Matsuzaka said "I knew all along I hadn't allowed any hits," but David Ortiz said he didn't know until the Juan Castro single fell in in the eighth. Marco Scutaro, who joked that he let down the whole country of Japan by failing to reach Castro's bloop, said he didn't know until the middle innings. Same goes for Jason Varitek.

Speaking of Varitek, he spoke out rather boldly about the multiple inquiries into whether he and Matsuzaka will be paired with one another going forward. It seems 'Tek wanted to put an end to the line of questioning, which has also popped up with him and Josh Beckett this year.

"People have to understand one thing," the captain said. "We start doing that as a team you put your starting catcher in an awkward position in that he doesn't get the right days off. I need to play when he needs to not play and it doesn't matter who's on the mound. You start getting into personal catchers and all this stuff, I was fortunate today Dice was powerful through the zone."

That should put that issue to bed. And that's where this blog is going until tomorrow afternoon when Tim Wakefield and Roy Halladay square off.

Final, Red Sox 5-0: The enigmatic Daisuke Matsuzaka, with a little luck, puts forth a gem for the Red Sox against a pretty good offensive team in the Phillies. After a horrendous outing Monday in New York, Matsuzaka takes a no-hitter two outs into the eighth and finishes with eight scoreless innings.

That is now two good starts and three bad ones for Matsuzaka, whom the Sox have to hope will even things out and find some consistency. As it is, his effort is very encouraging and it gives the club a chance to take the series Sunday.

To do so they will have to get the better of Roy Halladay, who starts opposite Tim Wakefield in a 1:35 p.m. affair.

Heading to hear from Dice-K. Back in a bit.

Mid 9th, Red Sox 5-0: Mike Lowell pinch hit for Daisuke Matsuzaka in the ninth and in comes Daniel Bard to get the last three outs for the Sox.

End 8th, Red Sox 5-0: When Daisuke Matsuzaka snagged a liner to end the seventh and Adrian Beltre made a diving stop to start a double play in the eighth you had the feeling that Matsuzaka's no-hit bid was destined. Juan Castro is the guy who gets the Phillies fans cheering for the first time all night, but he is stranded after singling to left.

There is nobody warming in the Red Sox bullpen so Matsuzaka may get a shot at his complete game. He has thrown 112 pitches.

9:47 p.m.: After the Phillies hit about a half-dozen hard smashes that wind up in Red Sox gloves, it's a floater off the bat of Juan Castro over the head of shortstop Marco Scutaro that breaks up the no-hitter with two outs in the eighth.

Mid 8th, Red Sox 5-0: Lost amid Daisuke Matsuzaka's big night is the fact that the Red Sox have now been set down 10 in a row since Adrian Beltre's two-run double in the fourth. Not that anyone really cares.

What you may care about is that Kevin Youkilis has replaced David Ortiz at first base. The defense gets a whole lot better for Dice-K's last two innings, if he can keep this up.

End 7th, Red Sox 5-0: After what we just witnessed in the seventh, there is no doubt in my mind that Daisuke Matsuzaka is going to throw a no-hitter (for those of you worried about me jinxing it, I kinda have to mention it). Following two soft outs, Matsuzaka sticks his glove out somewhat blindly and snags a screaming line drive off the bat of Jayson Werth to end the inning. 

The pitch count, which at one point may have presented an obstacle in Matsuzaka's pursuit of history, is now at a more manageable 93.

Mid 7th, Red Sox 5-0: Daisuke Matsuzaka's pitch count is at 85 as he heads out for the seventh. Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Jayson Werth stand in front of him in this inning. If Matsuzaka is going to etch his name into the record books, the seventh will present a big challenge.

End 6th, Red Sox 5-0: A strikeout and a pair of nice defensive plays, one a David Ortiz to Daisuke Matsuzaka putout at first, has the Sox righty through six without a hit allowed. Remember, he is throwing to Jason Varitek, who seems to catch a no-hitter every other year.

Mid 6th, Red Sox 5-0: The Sox go quietly in the sixth, but the story is becoming the man on the mound, Daisuke Matsuzaka. He will face a pinch hitter (in all likelihood) and then the top of the Phillies order in the sixth.

End 5th, Red Sox 5-0: OK, it has to be out there now for me to do my job. Daisuke Matsuzaka has still yet to allow a hit, but there have been about four hard outs in the past few innings, balls sending Jacoby Ellsbury and Jeremy Hermida scampering to haul one in.

Matsuzaka has tossed 76 pitches, in case you are wondering.

Mid 5th, Red Sox 5-0: The rally ends when Jeremy Hermida strikes out, but the Sox put together three doubles and a single to open things up a bit. Daisuke Matsuzaka heads back out there having thrown 68 pitches, none of which have resulted in a hit.

8:52 p.m.: We talked earlier about the Red Sox lefties having a good chance against Kyle Kendrick, who has been smacked around by lefty batters all year. After J.D. Drew and David Ortiz pick up RBI hits in the fifth, that trend continues. Adrian Beltre, who of course does not bat from the left side, then chases Kendrick with a two-run double to make it 5-0.

Antonio Bastardo is on in relief for the Phils.

End 4th, Red Sox 1-0: Jeremy Hermida has been shaky in left field, mostly at Fenway Park, but he makes a nice running catch at the 374 foot sign in left-center field to help Daisuke Matsuzaka work around a leadoff walk.

Placido Polanco drew the bases on balls and stole second with two outs on a pitch from Matsuzaka that may not have traveled 55 feet.

Mid 4th, Red Sox 1-0: Daisuke Matsuzaka is getting hits. David Ortiz is scoring on shallow sacrifice flies. It's bizarro world in Philly tonight.

Ortiz, who reached on a fielder's choice and moved to third on Adrian Beltre's bloop double to left, broke for home on a fly to left off the bat of Jeremy Hermida. He barely beat the throw, much to the dismay of the Phillies, who put up a mild argument.

End 3rd, 0-0: Daisuke Matsuzaka has four strikeouts through three innings after fanning the first two he faces for the second straight frame.

Mid 3rd, 0-0: Daisuke Matsuzaka gets a hit. Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia do not. In fact, Pedroia grounds into an inning-ending double play to finish the third. For Matsuzaka it is the first of his career, not including a two-run single in the 2007 World Series.

Dice-K was 0-for-8 in his career prior to dropping a single into center. He went 3-for-9 with a home run with the Seibu Lions in 2006.

End 2nd, 0-0: A much better beginning for Daisuke Matsuzaka than he had five days again in New York, when the Yankees scored four runs before making an out. Matsuzaka strikes out both Ryan Howard and Jayson Werth to begin the second and gets around a two-out walk to Raul Ibanez.

Mid 2nd, 0-0: Marco Scutaro's bid for an RBI single falls into the glove of a sliding Jayson Werth to end the second with two on.

David Ortiz walked and Jason Varitek singled before Werth went to his rear to haul in Scutaro's sinking liner.

End 1st, 0-0: Dustin Pedroia said before the game he was going to handle everything hit to the right side of the infield with David Ortiz making a rare start at first. Pedroia and Ortiz actually team up on a double play to end the first, but as promised, Pedroia did all the work.

With a runner on first and one out, Chase Utley lined one ticketed for right. Pedroia timed his leap perfectly and snagged it before throwing to Ortiz to double off Placido Polanco.

7:24 p.m.: Meant to alert you all earlier but this game is on Fox. A Fox game at night. Something new.

Mid 1st, 0-0: Kyle Kendrick seems to have figured a few things out of late for the Phillies and is enjoying his best stretch in a few years. He continues that progress with a 1-2-3 first. Jacoby Ellsbury flied to left in his first plate appearance since that day in Kansas City.

7:09 p.m.: The Phillies have taken the field to Metallica's "Whereever I May Roam," and we are ready to rock here at Citizens Bank Park. The crowd is a bit charged after watching their Flyers take control of their series with the Canadiens earlier in the day. Sorry B's fans. Just telling it like it is.

6:30 p.m.: The Sox will have five left-handed batters in the lineup against Phillies starter Kyle Kendrick, who has been rocked by lefties this year.

Opponents from that side of the plate are hitting .337 (29-for-86) with 14 extra-base hits (eight doubles, three triples, three home runs) against Kendrick. Righties, meanwhile, are batting just .218 (19-for-87).

Jeremy Hermida is the only player with more than four at bats against Kendrick. He is 4-for-13 with a homer.

Jacoby Ellsbury is one such lefty, making his first appearance since April 11. He will likely play center on most days until Mike Cameron returns, which brings us to our daily update on Cameron.

The Sox center fielder is taking Saturday off as Double-A Portland plays a doubleheader. He will play again Sunday and then the club will reassess his status going forward. It has taken time for Cameron to feel comfortable playing too many games in a row, and when he does return he won't be doing so very often.

Terry Francona said Saturday that giving Cameron days off from time to time is "very realistic." Do not be surprised to see him play roughly two of every three games for a bit when he returns. The abdominal injury just seems to need that sort of rest until it is surgically repaired.

J.D. Drew was out running with a trainer earlier, testing a sore hip flexor. Francona said he is fine and just needed to loosen it up a bit. Drew is in right field and batting third.

Francona was asked about having Jason Varitek catch Daisuke Matsuzaka and said it is simply a matter of timing. Victor Martinez caught John Lackey on Friday and will be catching Tim Wakefield (he always does) Sunday afternoon so there was no way he would be behind the plate for all three games.

Matsuzaka and Martinez seemed to have some communication issues following their last pairing Monday in New York, when Dice-K was reached for seven runs. Francona called a meeting with the two later in the week to iron out any perceived issues, but insisted that the Varitek start on Saturday has nothing to do with it.

Finally, Francona talked a bit about the recent slump for Dustin Pedroia, who is hitting .240 in May and just .133 (4-for-30) with an uncharacteristic seven strikeouts in his last eight games. Essentially, nothing to see here.

"He won't be in it very long," Francona said. "Sometimes when we're not scoring he takes the burden. You can see it in his swings. It's a great quality. Sometimes it can get you into trouble with a few at bats…If we're looking up and thinking Pedroia's not hitting, that's low on the list [of things to worry about]."

The threat of rain is not very threatening right now. In fact, the skies to the west are pretty bright. Shouldn't be an issue.

5:40 p.m.: Here is a look and a breakdown of the Red Sox and Phillies starting lineupsfor Saturday night's tilt. We will also provide a little more on David Ortiz getting a rare start at first base, updates on Mike Cameron and other news and notes from around the Red Sox clubhouse. All that coming in a bit.

3:17 p.m.: A strong shower swept through the area within the last hour and there is rain in the forecast for this evening, but baseball should be played. In fact, the tarp is off the field at Citizens Bank Park, where the Sox-Phils are a bit of second act after this afternoon's Canadiens-Flyers game.

We should have lineups to you in a second and then any and all pregame  notes.

9:21 a.m.:Jacoby Ellsbury will make his return to the Red Sox lineup Saturday when they take on the Philadelphia Phillies in the second of three straight at Citizens Bank Park.

Ellsbury has been out since April 11, when he suffered four fractured ribs in a collision with third baseman Adrian Beltre. He has played three rehab games in the minors and saw a roster spot cleared up Friday night when Jonathan Van Every was designated for assignment.

Daisuke Matsuzaka makes his fifth start of the season for the Red Sox, hoping to bounce back from a rough start in New York in which he gave up four runs before ever recording an out.

Kyle Kendrick goes for the Phillies. First pitch is 7:10 p.m.

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