Jon Lester benefited from a seven-run Red Sox outburst in the third inning against the Blue Jays on July 9 and coasted to his 11th win in Boston’s 14-3 whipping.
In the series finale on Sunday, Matsuzaka outlasted Jesse Litsch‘s no-hit bid — which lasted 5 2/3 innings — and showcased the stuff Sox fans have been clamoring to see, bringing Boston into the All-Star break with a 3-2 win. The gyroballer tossed just 88 pitches in six innings, allowing two runs while striking out five and walking none, earning him Amica Pitcher of the Week honors.
His only mistake was a two-run shot by Aaron Hill with no outs in the seventh, which prompted manager Terry Francona to take the ball from his starter. Though it wasn’t a complete-game, dominating performance, Matsuzaka picked up his first win since June 7 and lowered his season ERA to 4.56. In the three starts between victories, he was 0-1 with a 5.10 ERA and logged just one quality start (six innings, three earned runs against Tampa Bay on June 30, when he took the loss).
Throwing at least 105 pitches in those three contests, Matsuzaka struggled to keep his pitch count low and lasted six innings only once. But against Toronto, he maintained control — even if some of his improvement could have been because of an immobile roof panel at Rogers Centre, which created shadows on the infield.
“That was probably the worst game I’ve ever played in as far as dealing with the shadows,” Darnell McDonald told The Associated Press.
Francona also recognized how helpful the shadows were to the pitchers’ success.
“It was a great, great day to pitch,” the manager said. “With the shadow where it was, it was so hard to see. You see half the ball. I went out to make a change, and it was so dark [at the plate] and so light [at the mound].”
Shadows or not, Matsuzaka dispelled a little of the frustration surrounding his consistency and ended the first half of the season on a high note.