Daisuke Matsuzaka Shakes Off Early Rust to Pick Up Fourth Win

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Daisuke Matsuzaka Shakes Off Early Rust to Pick Up Fourth Win Postgame, Red Sox 6-4: On a night that saw a blown call ruin a perfect game and one of the game's greatest all-time players call it quits and a handful of ninth-inning rallies, Daisuke Matsuzaka's promising start may have been overshadowed. But not in Boston.

While Matsuzaka said he was not completely satisfied with giving up three runs in 6 2/3 innings (no walks!!!), the rest of the Red Sox were.

Dice-K made a concerted effort to pound the strike zone after his eight-walk performance against Kansas City last week. It paid off in remarkable fashion, and for the first time this season there was a sense that Matsuzaka may have turned a corner.

"Hopefully he's proven to himself that when he does pitch to contact early in the count…it gives him a chance to be more efficient."

Matsuzaka threw 84-of-109 pitches for strikes.

The Red Sox have put together four wins in a row and will go for five straight Thursday afternoon when Tim Wakefield takes the mound in the series finale. First pitch is 1:35 p.m.

Final, Red Sox 6-4: A Kevin Kouzmanoff solo shot off Jonathan Papelbon and a single by Rajai Davis gets the tying run to the plate, but Papelbon gets the last out of the Red Sox' fourth win in a row.

Boston is a season-high eight games above .500 and is back in third place in the American League East.

Daisuke Matsuzaka gets a nice win after a pretty poor first inning. We will head on down to hear from him and the rest of the crew.

End 8th, Red Sox 6-3: Jonathan Papelbon is on to pitch for just the third time in the past 15 days. 

Not to scare anyone, but there has been some wild ninth-inning action in baseball tonight. In addition to the blown call in Armando Galarraga's pursuit of a perfect game, but the Rays just erupted for seven in the ninth to take the lead in Toronto and Francisco Rodriguez spoiled a Johan Santana gem in San Diego moments ago.

9:50 p.m.: Marco Scutaro has an RBI single to give the Sox a three-run lead. Rookie Tyson Ross, who walked the only two men he faced Tuesday, is the fourth Oakland pitcher of the night.

Mid 8th, Red Sox 5-3: Daniel Bard is about as locked in as a reliever can be right now. That is now 11 1/3 innings without allowing an earned run as he rolls through Oakland in the eighth.

On a more sour note, the Tampa Bay Rays have rallied in the ninth for the second straight night and the Yankees are rolling in New York. At the very least, Boston can move into third place tonight if all scores hold.

End 7th, Red Sox 5-3: The Dustin Pedroia RBI double figures to provide a huge run for the Red Sox, but with the way their bullpen has been of late, they might not need it.

As Daniel Bard takes to the mound to start the eighth, Boston's relievers have a scoreless streak of 8 1/3 innings dating to last Friday.

9:27 p.m.: It's been quite a grind for Dustin Pedroia, but he is showing some signs of coming out of this long slump. He doubled in his last trip to the plate Tuesday and delivers an RBI double in the seventh, driving in a run for the first time since May 14. Pedroia is at third and Kevin Youkilis at first when the A's turn to Craig Breslow to try to get the last out of the seventh.

Mid 7th, Red Sox 4-3: As has often been the case of late, Daniel Bard does his job, striking out Kurt Suzuki with runners on the corners to end the top of the seventh. It was an 88-mph slider that did the trick.

Bard entered having not allowed an earned run in 10 innings.

Matsuzaka struck out seven and did not walk a batter in 6 2/3 innings, giving up three runs on 10 hits. All three runs and four of the hits came in the first inning.

Brad Ziegler is on in relief of Ben Sheets.

9:11 p.m.: Daisuke Matsuzaka got the first two outs of the seventh just fine before hitting a batter and giving up a single to put runners on the corners. Enter Daniel Bard for the 27th time this season in a huge situation.

End 6th, Red Sox 4-3: We will see if the Red Sox wasting a leadoff triple in the sixth comes back to hurt them. J.D. Drew just sat there watching three straight players pop to someone in the Oakland infield.

Daisuke Matsuzaka heads to the mound for the seventh having thrown 86 pitches, 70 for strikes.

Mid 6th, Red Sox 4-3: While Daisuke Matsuzaka continues to roll through the Athletics, all the attention in the Fenway Park press box was on another pitching performance. If you haven't seen what just happened in the Cleveland-Detroit game, find a way to get caught up. I'll withhold the details.

End 5th, Red Sox 4-3: Ben Sheets made David Ortiz look silly on a pair of off-speed pitches but had missed with three fastballs. He stuck with the heater and Ortiz was still sitting on it.

Big Papi takes Sheets deep into the stands in right for a two-run bomb, his 12th of the season. Darnell McDonald, who doubled to start the inning, came in on the blast.

Mid 5th, Athletics 3-2: Two strikeouts and a weak grounder get Daisuke Matsuzaka through his first perfect inning. He has thrown a remarkable 60-of-75 pitches for strikes, with just nine balls thrown over the last four innings.

End 4th, Athletics 3-2: Ben Sheets needs 11 pitches to mow down the Sox in the fourth. And he works rather quickly in between deliveries, so the inning flew.

Let's see if Daisuke Matsuzaka can exorcise his fifth-inning demons. He has given up 10 runs in five fifth innings this year.

Mid 4th, Athletics 3-2: It's not often you get a chance to double up the speedy Rajai Davis, but the Sox do just that to get out of a mess in the fourth.

Daisuke Matsuzaka yielded two straight singles to start off the inning. He then struck out Cliff Pennington before Davis grounded one to Adrian Beltre, who stepped on third and then fired across.

We mentioned Matsuzaka's patterns in many of his starts (see entry below). If it holds true for this one he will be hit hard in the fifth.

End 3rd, Athletics 3-2: Both starters have settled down a bit after rocky first innings. Ben Sheets walks David Ortiz with one out in the third but otherwise is unharmed.

By the way, Ken Griffey Jr. was a career .297 hitter with eight home runs at Fenway Park. It appears Griffey's numbers will stay that way, as we learn that the great center fielder will retire.

Mid 3rd, Athletics 3-2: Maybe, if the Red Sox need to find a new catcher next season, they can look to Kurt Suzuki. The A's backstop is a career .352 hitter at Fenway Park after recording his second hit in three innings, a one-out single in the third.

Suzuki has hit safely in each of his 22 starts against Boston.

End 2nd, Athletics 3-2: Darnell McDonald singled and recorded the Red Sox' 13th stolen base of the season, far and away the fewest in the majors. He is left at second when Marco Scutaro dribbles one back to the mound.

Mid 2nd, Athletics 3-2: Pretty much a standard start thus far for Daisuke Matsuzaka, who has been hit hard in the first inning several times this year before rebounding for a few frames.

His ERA in first innings now sits at 15.43. After working around a one-out single in the second, he drops his ERA in that inning to 1.29.

Matsuzaka has also not allowed a run in the third or fourth innings this year. After that it gets a bit tricky.

End 1st, Athletics 3-2: Making his 233rd career start but first ever at Fenway Park, Ben Sheets finds the friendly confines a bit difficult to get used to.

Sheets gives up hits to three of the first four batters. Two runs come on on a one-out single by Kevin Youkilis.

With the hit Youkilis moves into second place on the Sox in RBIs with 32, trailing Adrian Beltre's 37.

Mid 1st, Athletics 3-0: Daisuke Matsuzaka hinted after his poor start against Kansas City six days ago that when things aren't going right, he tends to overthink how to correct them. The wheels must really be turning now.

With an assist from a misplay by Jeremy Hermida in left, the A's get to Matsuzaka for three runs before half the fans even find their seats. The big blow was a two-run shot by Kurt Suzuki, one of four hits in the inning.

Terry Francona was a bit prickly when asked about his outfield defense after Tuesday's win. And while the club had just secured a nice victory and there are a host of guys filling in out there, it is a legitimate concern.

Hermida has been the shakiest of the bunch, far and away. This is especially notable at Fenway, where Hermida has misplayed several balls. He allowed a liner by Daric Barton hit off his glove with one out in the first. It goes into the books as a double, but a major leaguer should make that play.

Ryan Sweeney followed with an RBI double of his own, this one far more legit.

6:55 p.m.: There were a pair of afternoon games in baseball Wednesday. One resulted in a tidy, 2-1 win for Atlanta over Philadelphia in well under three hours. The other, featuring Arizona at Los Angeles, is currently in the bottom of the 13th still scoreless. Just thought you would like to know.

6:36 p.m.: With roughly 30 minutes before Daisuke Matsuzaka takes the mound on a beautiful night at Fenway Park, here are a few numbers to get you going.

  • The Sox are 30-23 and in fourth place. Since divisional play began in 1969, no other American League team has owned a better record and been in fourth place as of June 1.
  • Victor Martinez on Tuesday became the 20th player in baseball history to hit a double in four straight at bats.
  • Boston's bullpen has tossed eight straight scoreless innings and have held opponents to a .230 average overall, third in the AL.
  • Oakland has a 5.10 ERA on the road, the second-highest in the AL. It owns a 2.79 ERA at home, the best mark in the junior circuit.
  • The A's are tied for the AL lead with 20 sacrifice flies and rank second with 18 sacrifice bunts.
  • Oakland is 9-2 in one-run games, tops in the majors.

5:02 p.m.: The everyday injury updates from Fenway Park offer up some good news on Mike Cameron, who saw a specialist today at Mass General Hospital to look at what was causing him some pain in his side.

According to manager Terry Francona, tests showed no new damage or anything that should create a long-term delay in Cameron's return. He may be back for this weekend's series in Baltimore.

On a sour note, Josh Beckett's rehab from a lower back strain continues to be delayed. The club is going to keep him from any baseball activity for 10 days before getting him up and throwing again.

Beckett had a bullpen session cut short Friday when his mechanics appeared to be off a bit. It has been a frustrating season for the Sox' Opening Day starter, and this latest setback won't make him any happier.

Also, as noted in our separate lineup analysis, Victor Martinez will take his five-hit night and sit on the bench to start this one. Some may read into the Daisuke Matsuzaka-Jason Varitek pairing, but with Tim Wakefield on the mound on Thursday (Martinez always catches Wake) it would be hard to imagine a hobbled Martinez playing all 27 innings of the series, so Varitek's insertion makes sense.

More updates to come a little later on.

4:37 p.m.: The focus tonight is on Daisuke Matsuzaka. But he will have a few guys playing behind him, and against him. Here are the lineups for both teams:

Red Sox

Marco Scutaro SS
Dustin Pedroia 2B
David Ortiz DH
Kevin Youkilis 1B
J.D. Drew RF
Adrian Beltre 3B
Jeremy Hermida LF
Jason Varitek C
Darnell McDonald CF

A's

Rajai Davis CF
Daric Barton 1B
Ryan Sweeney RF
Kurt Suzuki C
Jack Cust DH
Mark Ellis 2B
Gabe Gross LF
Adam Rosales 3B
Cliff Pennington SS

8 a.m.: Winners of 11 of their last 14 games, the Red Sox turn to Daisuke Matsuzaka in the middle game of a three-game series with the Oakland Athletics.

The Sox took the opener of the set and stretched their winning streak to three games with Tuesday's 9-4 victory. Victor Martinez, who has not caught Matsuzaka the past two games, was 5-for-5 with four doubles, which ties a major league record.

Matsuzaka followed up a gem in Philadelphia with a stinker in Fenway Park six days ago. In a 4-3 loss to Kansas City he walked eight, tying a career high. Five of the free passes were issued in one inning alone.

Ben Sheets goes for Oakland, making his first career start against Boston.

First pitch is 7:10 p.m.

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