Red Sox Live Blog: Daisuke Matsuzaka Pitches Gem As Sox Top Blue Jays 9-1


Red Sox Live Blog: Daisuke Matsuzaka Pitches Gem As Sox Top Blue Jays 9-1

Postgame, Red Sox 9-1: It was a wild clubhouse, for two specific reasons. One, the Red Sox were packing up for a nine-game road trip, which always throws the room into chaos.

Two, there is finally a sense that this thing is beginning to get going. In fact, this might be the most complete win of the year in the sense that there really wasn’t much to grip about. Even yesterday, when Jon Lester was solid and the offense showed up in an 8-1 win, the lefty talked about not having his best stuff and the manager talked about some sloppy defense. Plus, in some of the earlier wins, the team wasted loads of scoring opportunities.

But on Marathon Monday, in advance of the longest road trip of the season (actually tied with two others, but I needed some drama here), everything clicked.

Take a deep breath, tune to NESN for the Bruins game tonight and then turn your attention to the Red Sox tomorrow night. John Lackey will be on the hill in Oakland for the first of two against the A’s. We’ll have all the action for you right here.

Thanks for following along. Happy Patriots’ Day. It was for the Red Sox.

Final, Red Sox 9-1: After Sox pitching (Matsuzaka, Alfredo Aceves) combined to retire 20 in a row, Tim Wakefield allowed a solo shot to Yunel Escobar in the top of the ninth. It was too little, too late, however, as the Jays would fall 9-1.

With J.D. Drew (two hits as leadoff hitter) and Jed Lowrie (4-for-5, homer, four RBIs) heating up, one has to wonder if this same — and unexpected — lineup will be seen Tuesday night in Oakland.

Forget those Marathon Monday/Matsuzaka jokes you heard at the office this morning, as Dice-K’s line was seven innings pitched, one hit, one walk and three strikeouts. Additionally, he threw 58 strikes in 89 total pitches and the game was played in less than three hours.

End 8th, Red Sox 9-0: John McDonald spun a nice defensive gem to end the Sox’ eighth.

Lowrie was unable to grab his fifth hit of the day as Casey Janssen struck him out, leaving his batting average at .516.

Mid 8th, Red Sox 9-0: The Sox have now retired 19 in a row as they take the nine-run lead into the bottom of the eighth.

The last Toronto batsman to reach base was Travis Snider who walked with two down in the second frame. Bautista has the lone Jays hit — a single in the first inning.

End 7th, Red Sox 9-0: Not that the Red Sox need it, but they get some more breathing room with a Jacoby Ellsbury solo shot.

No need to waste any bullets for Daisuke Matsuzaka in a nine-run game, so Alfredo Aceves is on.

Given his prior start, this has to rank as one of the best outings of Matsuzaka’s career.

Mid 7th, Red Sox 8-0: Daisuke Matsuzaka was booed off this mound a week ago. He said he wanted to get a chance to fix that. He has.

Matsuzaka has been masterful. He has retired 16 in a row and walks off the mound this time to a huge ovation. Not that he’s done, though. His pitch count is at just 88. If I recall, it was at 41 through two.

End 6th, Red Sox 8-0: We can talk about Jed Lowrie, who just improved to 4-for-4 and saw his average jump to .533.

But what about Carl Crawford, whose RBI double to score Lowrie had to make that dugout as a whole feel a bit better.

Crawford hit a fly to left his previous at-bat and it looked like he got pretty good wood on it. This time, he goes off the wall, snapping an 0-for-15 slide.

That is Crawford’s second double of the season.

Oh, and Kevin Youkilis hit a two-run homer in the sixth. Everybody’s hitting today.

Mid 6th, Red Sox 5-0: That’s a five-pitch inning for Daisuke Matsuzaka. Three straight strikes to Jayson Nix and then first-pitch outs (both flyouts) to Yunel Escobar and Corey Patterson.

Matsuzaka is absolutely cruising right now. Saw multiple jokes about him pitching on this day because of the ability to use marathon humor. Matsuzaka starts have the reputation of lasting a long time.

Well, he’s through six and we are still minutes from when a normal game would begin.

End 5th, Red Sox 5-0: Luis Perez does his job to get Toronto out of the fifth, but the damage is done.

I said earlier that Marco Scutaro would get back in there soon enough, perhaps as early as the series in Oakland. Not so sure. You simply cannot back away from what Jed Lowrie is providing right now.

It’s interesting this time around because Terry Francona is so loyal to his regulars. He announced that shortstop was Scutaro’s job this winter, just to quell the talk of Lowrie taking over. Now, Francona is just about forced to go the other way, even if he wants to stay loyal to Scutaro.

12:50 p.m.: The only out Ricky Romero is able to get in the fifth is, naturally, a fly ball off the bat of Carl Crawford.

Aside from that, not much went right, and he can head to the showers cursing Jed Lowrie.

Lowrie continues his torrid pace with a two-run homer, his second of the series. He is now 15-for-29 with nine RBIs on the season.

A walk to Jason Varitek ended the afternoon for Romero. Luis Perez is the new Toronto pitcher.

Mid 5th, Red Sox 3-0: Well then. Daisuke Matsuzaka, the guy everyone wanted to either trade, demote, banish to the bullpen or DL, is absolutely cruising.

Ten Blue Jays in a row have been retired. Matsuzaka picked up his second K of the afternoon to begin the fifth.

All of a sudden, the pitch count is a very manageable 73.

Still need some runs though.

End 4th, Red Sox 3-0: Adrian Gonzalez isn’t noted as a guy who struggles against lefties. In fact, some of his numbers vs. southpaws last year were better than against right-handers. Chalk this up to a bad day.

Gonzalez has struck out all three times against Ricky Romero, leave five men on base overall.

When neither the pitcher nor the hitter are familiar with one another, there should be no advantage or disadvantage. But there will be days when Gonzalez struggles in these initial matchups against the AL East elites, like Romero.

Mid 4th, Red Sox 3-0: He’s just tough to figure out, folks. Daisuke Matsuzaka has set down seven in a row and hasn’t allowed a hit since the first inning.

Nine of his 12 outs have come through the air, an indication he is effective up in the zone. Against Tampa Bay the last time out, everything was belt-high, but also very centered. Keeping things in the right spots this time, even if he would probably want to be a bit more down.

End 3rd, Red Sox 3-0: A quirky start to the third inning for Boston, as Kevin Youkilis’ drive to right hits the top of the wall in front of the Red Sox bullpen and bounces back.

Youkilis has to settle for a double, but the run comes in moments later when David Ortiz dribbles one into right.

Jed Lowrie followed with his second single in as many at-bats. That bumped his average back to .500 (14-for-28). Carl Crawford, meanwhile is down to .117 (7-for-60).

Mid 3rd, Red Sox 2-0: Seven of the first eight outs recorded by Daisuke Matsuzaka were through the air. The ninth resulted in his first strikeout.

Matsuzaka blew a 91 mph fastball by Corey Patterson to finish the third, his first 1-2-3 inning.

Matsuzaka’s pitch count is a healthy 52. Not great, but considering where he was three innings into his previous start, this is wonderful.

End 2nd, Red Sox 2-0: Difficult start for Adrian Gonzalez in this one. He has struck out twice in two innings, both with two runners on.

So who’s winning the race?

Mid 2nd, Red Sox 2-0: Maybe the fact that the team has a couple of wins under its belt now and also gave him an early lead will help Daisuke Matsuzaka settle in a bit.

He works around a two-out walk in the second, getting the final out on a fly to left that Carl Crawford really had to battle. Sun is tough out there right now with the early start, and the wind is a female dog.

Speaking of working with a lead, that’s one area in which the Red Sox have been very successful. In this series alone, they’ve scored 11 runs in the first three innings. For the season, they have 32 runs in innings 1-3, compared to just nine over the next three.

End 1st, Red Sox 2-0: Ricky Romero’s career against the Red Sox, which includes a 7.42 ERA in nine starts, has seen a ton of quick outings.

Six times he failed to get through six innings, five times failed to get through five also had outings that lasted 3 2/3 innings and 2 1/3 innings.

This one might establish a new low if he doesn’t tighten things up. The Red Sox made him throw 32 pitches in a marathon bottom of the first.

J.D. Drew, put in the leadoff spot in large part because he can work the count, took the second pitch he saw and hammered it off the wall in center for a triple. A walk, strikeout, strikeout and walk loaded the bases for Jed Lowrie, who smacked the first pitch into right for a two-run single.

Carl Crawford, in dire need of a big hit, popped to left to end it. Tale of two hitters. Lowrie can do no wrong. Crawford is in a free-fall.

Romero should actually be pleased that the Red Sox scored only two runs. Could’ve been a lot worse than that.

Mid 1st, 0-0: With Jason Varitek catching him, Daisuke Matsuzaka looks a bit more elusive in the top of the first.

By elusive, of course, I mean not throwing 88 mph fastballs straight down the middle. He was in and out a bit with the heater, and sat in the low-90s with it. He even reached 93, higher than any pitch he threw his last time out (max speed was 92.5, so technically that would be rounded up to 93).

That said, the Blue Jays swung and missed just twice and made Matsuzaka throw 19 pitches. A two-out single by Jose Bautista got them their only runner of the frame.

11:00 a.m.: The Red Sox are 66-49 on Patriots’ Day, but just 1-3 against the Blue Jays on this day. They had a six-game winning streak snapped in last year’s loss to Tampa Bay, which saw John Lackey get pasted.

Interestingly enough, Boston is 22-11 against the Yankees on the holiday. Pretty average aside from the success against their rivals.

As for Daisuke Matsuzaka, he owns a 3.91 ERA in day games in his career, compared to 4.42 at night. So, there’s that.

9:56 a.m.: So, the lineup. You want to know more about the lineup, right?

Well, there’s a new look to it today and plenty to analyze. Let’s first look at the matchups.

Terry Francona admitted that he looked at several scenarios when trying to determine who to bat leadoff.

Carl Crawford has been killing the team in that spot, going 3-for-32 with zero walks. Jed Lowrie had a good game in the top spot on Saturday, but moving him down in the order gives him a chance to drive in some runs and breaks up what would’ve been a run of lefties (if Lowrie was leading off and J.D. Drew was hitting sixth). Certainly, Jacoby Ellsbury had to be considered.

With Drew, Francona has someone he thinks can, at the very least, give a longer at-bat to start the game. He knows how to draw a walk or at least get to a three-ball count, something Crawford has done none of. Plus, Drew is 9-for-20 with four walks against Blue Jays starter Ricky Romero.

“We’re just trying to get some guys on base and find some balance,” Francona said.

As for the Lowrie-Marco Scutaro situation, there is no absolute swap. Not only is Lowrie hot, but we all know his propensity to hit lefties, so Francona will ride that wave until he sees reason to stop. That reason could come in the fact that Lowrie is not the defender that Scutaro is. Look for Marco to be in there a bit more on the road trip, with Lowrie getting starts against lefties and perhaps a turn or two at DH or 3B.

Also, people should not take this as a sign that Scutaro was the issue. Sure, he struggled out of the gate, but so did everyone. However, in his last seven games, Scutaro was 6-for-21 (.286) with five walks and six RBIs. Four of those RBIs came on huge hits late in games. He has been very productive, and as mentioned, is a better shortstop with the glove.

I know you all love Jed Lowrie now, and I agree he should be in the lineup regularly in some fashion until he cools off, but Scutaro needs his appearances, too. That’s why Lowrie will remain this guy that jumps around from position to position a bit, depending on the schedule, matchups, etc. He still offers incredible value in that role.

9:36 a.m.: For a more complete lineup analysis by the great John Beattie, click here.

For just a quick glance at the lineups, look below:

Red Sox

J.D. Drew, RF
Dustin Pedroia , 2B
Adrian Gonzalez , 1B
Kevin Youkilis, 3B
David Ortiz, DH
Jed Lowrie, SS
Carl Crawford, LF
Jason Varitek, C
Jacoby Ellsbury, CF

Blue Jays

Yunel Escobar, SS
Corey Patterson, CF
Jose Bautista, RF
Adam Lind, 1B
Aaron Hill, 2B
J.P. Arencibia, C
Travis Snider, LF
Edwin Encarnacion, DH
Jayson Nix, 3B

You may have heard via Twitter that Hideki Okajima is back with the club. Felix Doubront has been optioned to Pawtucket. More on this move in a moment.

8:05 a.m.: Greetings from Fenway Park, where the sun is hitting the press box unlike any other day we ever step in here. Early morning sun just killing the place, but it feels nice compared to the chill in the air outside. Quite a breeze blowing right now.

Lineups over in just a few.

6 a.m.: The annual Patriots’ Day affair will see the Red Sox finish a four-game series with the Toronto Blue Jays.

Daisuke Matsuzaka, who was hammered in his previous start, gets the call for the 11:05 a.m. start. He gave up seven runs in two-plus innings against Tampa Bay one week ago.

The Blue Jays give Matsuzaka a chance to turn things around. He has often feasted on their free-swinging ways, posting a 6-1 record and a 3.80 ERA in 11 career starts vs. Toronto.

The Jays counter with left-hander Ricky Romero, who is 1-1 with a 1.66 ERA but owns a 7.42 mark against the Red Sox.

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