Red Sox Live Blog: Daisuke Matsuzaka Solid in 2-1 Win Over Tigers


March 15, 2011

Red Sox Live Blog: Daisuke Matsuzaka Solid in 2-1 Win Over Tigers

Postgame, Red Sox 2-1: Another day filled with positives for the Red Sox. They’ve had a lot of these this spring.

Players coming back from injuries have performed well, minor leaguers in camp have impressed, those vying for jobs in the bullpen have been excellent and most of the starting pitchers have looked extremely strong.

Daisuke Matsuzaka was one exception, until today. He looked tremendous in five fantastic innings and now has some momentum he can carry into those final few Grapefruit League starts.

A handful of the younger players, as well as the coaching staff, will be spending the night up here in anticipation of Wednesday’s meeting with Atlanta up in Orlando. Jon Lester gets the start in that one and the great Jeff Howe will be carrying you through. 

Thanks for following along today.

Final, Red Sox 2-1: The second straight 2-1 victory for the Red Sox. Off to hear from Terry Francona. Back soon.

Mid 10th, Red Sox 2-1: Darnell McDonald had a homer in the game at Pittsburgh on Sunday and he gets another here against the Tigers to put Boston on top.

Brandon Duckworth is on to try to close this one out, potentially stealing Jonathan Papelbon’s job in the process.


End 9th, 1-1: Since we have the largest crowd in the 45-year history of Joker Marchant Stadium (think I tweeted 75 years, sorry about that), why not play a little extra?

Regardless of what happens, this will be it for the contest.

Mid 9th, 1-1: The Red Sox got the go-ahead run into scoring position but couldn’t move him along any more than that. Brandon Duckworth will pitch the ninth.

Since I did mention the Jason Varitek factor in Daisuke Matsuzaka’s start and a few of you have commented on that, just figured I would pass along the numbers.

In 77 career games throwing to Tek, Matsuzaka has a 4.01 ERA, compared to a career mark of 4.18. Opponents hit five points less (.239 vs. .244) with Varitek behind the plate, and their OPS is 12 points less. So, yes, there is a notable difference, enough to create a few extra quality starts a year.

Last year, Matsuzaka’s ERA was more than two runs higher when Victor Martinez was his catcher than when Varitek was.

End 8th, 1-1: Actually, those old gangsters mentioned in the prior post said, “And dat’s dat.” In any event, great movie.

Ryan Kalish made a nice sliding catch for the second out of a 1-2-3 inning for Michael Bowden. We head to the ninth all tied up. They will only play 10 if it comes to that.

Mid 8th, 1-1: As the guys who killed Joe Pesci’s character in “Goodfellas” said as they watched blood flow from his head, “And that’s that.”

The Sox rally dies on a fly ball to center off the bat of Ryan Kalish.

Michael Bowden, one of many relievers who has had a strong spring, is on in relief for Boston.

Daisuke Matsuzaka said he made a renewed effort to pound the zone, and it paid off. He also plans on sticking with his between-start strategy of staggering his long-toss session and bullpen session on separate days, which he began this time around.

More on Matsuzaka after the game.

3:19 p.m.: As we strolled out of the press box to go talk to Daisuke Matsuzaka, Miguel Cabrera launched a long home run to left to tie it.

The Sox have two on and two out in the top of the eighth with Ryan Kalish batting.

2:57 p.m.: Off to hear from Dice-K. Back soon.

Mid 7th, Red Sox 1-0: Both teams remain stuck on two hits after both Jason Varitek and Jed Lowrie are strikeout victims in the seventh.

Matt Albers will start the bottom of the seventh.

More substitutions for Boston. Josh Reddick is in right. Paul Hoover takes over for Varitek. Jose Iglesias is the new shortstop.

End 6th, Red Sox 1-0: In discussing the candidates for the remaining bullpen spots this morning, Terry Francona said that Matt Albers “has been tremendous.”

He certainly was in the sixth. Albers struck out the first two hitters and then got Magglio Ordonez on a liner to center. The righty has allowed one run in 6 1/3 innings so far.

Mid 6th, Red Sox 1-0: Carl Crawford made a nice bid for his first home run in a Red Sox uniform with a drive deep to left. It is caught near the track for the final out of the top of the sixth.

Matt Albers is the new Red Sox pitcher. Daisuke Matsuzaka allowed two hits and a walk in his five innings, striking out five.

Daniel Nava has taken over in left for Crawford. Ryan Kalish is in center field in place of Jacoby Ellsbury.

2:36 p.m.: Justin Verlander is taken out of the game after getting the first out of the sixth. He yielded just two hits — one the solo homer by Jacoby Ellsbury — and struck out five in 5 1/3 innings.

For those of you tired of hearing “Sweet Caroline” at Fenway, just know that they are playing it for the second time in as many innings right now at Joker Marchant Stadium.

And as I type that, Daisuke Matsuzaka is jogging out to the bullpen to finish up his pitch allotment. He is done for the day, and has something upon which he can finally build.

End 5th, Red Sox 1-0: That is the third 1-2-3 inning for Daisuke Matsuzaka, who picks up his fifth strikeout (against just one walk) along the way.

What makes this an even more impressive outing is that Matsuzaka is facing the “A” lineup for Detroit, many of whom have been hitting the ball pretty well during Grapefruit League play. He is not facing some second-rate bunch of hitters.

There is movement in the Boston bullpen, but Matsuzaka got through the fifth in such quick fashion that he may actually have one more in him. Can’t see into the Boston dugout so it’s hard to tell how he was received in there.

Mid 5th, Red Sox 1-0: Justin Verlander strikes out Darnell McDonald on a 95 mph 3-2 fastball and then whiffs Lars Anderson. Yamaico Navarro is the third out on a foul pop down the right-field line.

Daisuke Matsuzaka is out for what figures to be his last inning of work.

End 4th, Red Sox 1-0: Jacoby Ellsbury does it with his bat in the top of the fourth, and with his legs and glove in the bottom half.

After Magglio Ordonez singled with one out, just the second hit off Daisuke Matsuzaka, Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera launched one to straightaway center field.

Approaching the 420-foot sign, Ellsbury raced back and made a running catch high over his head.

After a very long battle with Victor Martinez, Matsuzaka issued his first walk and then nearly gave up a three-run bomb to Jhonny Peralta, but the drive to left hooked foul. Peralta, who is 0-for-13 against Matsuzaka in the regular season, finally grounded to second.

A lot of pitches by Dice-K in that inning, but no damage on the scoreboard.

Mid 4th, Red Sox 1-0: With every passing day, Jacoby Ellsbury is taking over the spotlight down here in Florida. He is having an excellent spring at the plate and looks like the Ellsbury of “old.”

After Justin Verlander retired the first nine men he faced, Ellsbury launched a 1-2 offering over the wall in right. It is his second home run of the spring and gives Ellsbury a .429 (12-for-28) mark.

J.D. Drew added a single later in the frame but stayed right there.

End 3rd, 0-0: For the first time this spring we can say this and actually have more than an at-bat or two to go by: “Daisuke Matsuzaka looks really good.”

I think some of what was going on his last time out was the fact that Matsuzaka, a relative creature of habit, was throwing to Paul Hoover, someone with whom there is very little familiarity.

Matsuzaka is throwing to Jason Varitek today and the two seem to be in complete control. Matsuzaka struck out two more in the third, giving him three in the last four at-bats. From where I sit it is his cutter, perhaps his best pitch but one he has struggled to master so far this spring, that has done the trick.

Mid 3rd, 0-0: Nine Red Sox up, nine Red Sox down against Justin Verlander. He has allowed one run in 12 2/3 innings this spring.

End 2nd, 0-0: Aside from a single by Victor Martinez on a ball that third baseman Yamaico Navarro probably could’ve had, no issues for Daisuke Matsuzaka in the second.

We mentioned earlier that Terry Francona is looking for Matsuzaka to throw with purpose. I guess that could be interpreted a few different ways, but he at least seems to be working much quicker and is pounding the zone much more than he did last time out, when he walked the first two men he faced and struggled with command for a good portion of the afternoon.

Mid 2nd, 0-0: This Justin Verlander guy is pretty good, in case you hadn’t heard. He strikes out Jed Lowrie and Darnell McDonald to finish the second and has three Ks through two perfect innings.

End 1st, 0-0: Although his line the last time out was not a pretty one, Daisuke Matsuzaka did end it with five straight outs (one on a caught stealing, and got his only two strikeouts in that span.

After getting three very quick outs to start this one, perhaps he can begin to build some momentum. Matsuzaka will throw about 75 pitches today. He needed only about 10 or so in the first.

Mid 1st, 0-0: The Red Sox go quietly in the first. Jacoby Ellsbury pops to third, Carl Crawford grounds out and J.D. Drew strikes out on a breaking ball down and in.

Daisuke Matsuzaka takes the hill. Terry Francona said just over an hour ago that he wants Matsuzaka to have “purpose” with every pitch.

This is Matsuzaka’s first start after altering his between-start routine. Francona isn’t expecting to have a radical effect.

“That might not turn around the whole season,” Francona said.

1:08 p.m.: We are underway under partly cloudy skies. Jacoby Ellsbury against Justin Verlander.

11:45 a.m.: Victor Martinez just met with reporters in the Tigers clubhouse. He is settling in just fine and had some great things to say about the Red Sox organization, holding no grudges over not being re-signed.

Will have more on V-Mart in a moment. Look for that on the site. He is battting fifth for the Tigers, whose lineup looks like this:

Austin Jackson, CF
Ryan Raburn, LF
Magglio Ordonez, RF
Miguel Cabrera, 1B
Victor Martinez, DH
Jhonny Peralta, SS
Brandon Inge, 3B
Scott Sizemore, 2B
Alex Avila, C

10:28 a.m.: Made the trip through the heartland of Florida just fine. Only saw six juvenile detention centers this time.

Just saw Victor Martinez getting some love from some of the arriving Red Sox players on the field. Heading down in a moment. For now, here is your lineup for today’s matchup with Detroit ace Justin Verlander:

Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
Carl Crawford, LF
J.D. Drew, RF
Jason Varitek, C
Jed Lowrie, SS
Darnell McDonald, DH
Lars Anderson, 1B
Yamaico Navarro, 3B
Nate Spears, 2B

8 a.m.: The Red Sox on Tuesday commence a two-day road trip into the heart of Florida with a visit to Lakeland, where they will take on the Detroit Tigers.

After a night spent in the area, Boston will take on the Atlanta Braves in Orlando on Wednesday.

Daisuke Matsuzaka draws the start in the first of the two contests. Matsuzaka has struggled in his last two starts. He has given up 13 runs — 11 earned — in 8 2/3 innings this spring. Included in the ugliness have been three home runs and five walks against just four strikeouts.

The game will give the Sox a chance to catch up with old friend Victor Martinez, who signed a long-term deal with the Tigers this offseason.

First pitch is 1:05 p.m., and we will be there to carry you through all the action.

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