Many positives, but Dice-K regrets walk to Harper

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Many positives, but Dice-K regrets walk to Harper

BOSTON -- If Daisuke Matsuzaka could take back one thing on Saturday, it would be his lead-off walk to Bryce Harper on four pitches in the top of the fourth.

That walk led to a Ryan Zimmerman single, a Michael Morse RBI ground-rule double, and an Ian Desmond two-run single.

A lead-off walk quickly turned into a three-run inning for the Washington Nationals, and that -- combined with an Adam LaRoche solo home run in the top of the second -- would be all they needed at Fenway Park on Saturday, defeating the Red Sox 4-2.

Matsuzaka picked up the loss in his first Major League start since May of last season. His recovery from Tommy John surgery last June set up him for a rehab assignment in the minors, and then lined him up for Saturday's season-debut against the Nationals.

He said after the loss that it was the most nervous he's been since coming to Boston from Japan.

"When I was first told by Bobby that I would be starting today's game, every time I thought about the game, I would become a little nervous," said Matsuzaka through his translator. "The preparation aspect, too, I thought the nerves coming off -- especially during the bullpen -- was probably the most nervous I've been during my time here in Boston."

Those nerves didn't seem to phase Matsuzaka too much, as he began the day with a 1-2-3 inning in the top of the first, while striking out two batters, each with a filthy slider.

And even after LaRoche hit a solo home run to begin the second inning, which gave Washington a 1-0 lead, Matsuzaka didn't seem rattled, and came right back with another strikeout and two more quick outs to end the inning.

Matsuzaka then went into the top of the third and put together another 1-2-3 inning, while racking up two more strikeouts. He finished the day with eight strikeouts, five of which came in the first three innings.

But it was that one walk that will haunt him.

"The biggest difference I think today was the consistency of my velocity, and the command of all my pitches," said Matsuzaka. "But what hurt me the most today was that one walk."

The Red Sox offense was shut down on Saturday. So that didn't help matters. And during any usual Matsuzaka start, the Red Sox will take only one walk from him.

And eight strikeouts in five innings to go along with that one walk? Yeah, they'll take that too.

"I didn't like the four runs, I didn't like the four balls to Harper in that one at-bat," said Valentine. "Other than that, I liked what I saw. I thought he threw a lot of strikes. He threw all of his pitches. He had good off-speed stuff, some pretty good command of his fastball, except for that one at-bat. He had it moving both ways. Kelly Shoppach thought it was OK. From the side, it looked OK.

"Usable. If we can get him to build on that -- eight strikeouts in five innings -- it's pretty good."

Matsuzaka was only "usable" for five innings on Saturday. Before the game, Valentine said that he would check in with Matsuzaka after each inning. And after the fourth -- in which he allowed three runs -- Valentine told him that the fifth inning would be his last.

So he went out in the fifth and allowed a ground-rule double to lead off the inning. He then retired the next three batters, including two more strikeouts, finishing his night by getting phenom Bryce Harper to look at an inning-ending called strike three.

Matsuzaka said afterwards that he wanted to go more than five innings.

"When I came off the mound, I came back to the bench after the fourth inning, and I was told that the next inning would be my last," said Matsuzaka. "But coming off after the fifth, I felt like I wanted to go out there for another inning."

Matsuzaka has a lot to build on. But after his first start of the season, he'll be building with confidence.

"Every time you pitch, you want to give your team a chance to win," said Matsuzaka. "And, losing today was very disappointing. But I think I did leave some positives for my next start. And I definitely think I pitched better than I had been during my rehab assignment."

Pedroia leads Red Sox to 11th win in a row, 3-2 over Rays in 10

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Pedroia leads Red Sox to 11th win in a row, 3-2 over Rays in 10

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Dustin Pedroia used nifty baserunning to score from first base on David Ortiz's double in the 10th inning and the AL East-leading Red Sox beat the Tampa Bay Rays 3-2 on Sunday for their 11th consecutive win.

Pedroia singled off Eddie Gamboa (0-1) to start the inning. The relay throw on Ortiz's hit to right center beat Pedroia to plate but he avoided Luke Maile's first tag. Pedroia's momentum carried him past the plate and when he went back to touch it, Maile was charged with an error when the ball dropped out his glove on another tag try.

Pedroia hit a solo homer and Mookie Betts extended his hitting streak to 11 games with an RBI single for the Red Sox, who secured at least an AL wild-card spot Saturday night. Boston's magic number to clinch the division title dropped to two.

Joe Kelly (4-0) went 2 2/3 scoreless innings for the win.

Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez struck out a career-high 13 in 5 1/3 innings. The left-hander and Heath Hembree combined to strikeout 11 consecutive batters to establish a major league-record. The New York Mets held the previous mark when Tom Seaver struck out 10 in a row against San Diego on Apr. 22, 1970.

Boston also set a club record by striking out 21 through nine. Kelly added two more in the 10th.

There was a moment of silence before the game for Miami pitcher Jose Fernandez, who was killed in a boating accident early Sunday. Fernandez played high school baseball in nearby Tampa, Florida after defecting from Cuba.

The Rays planned to honor Ortiz before his final game at Tropicana Field but canceled the ceremony at Ortiz's request after Fernandez's death. He had three hits in five at-bats and moved past Frank Thomas for 107th place on the career list with 2,469 hits.

Ortiz has 35 homers and 90 RBIs at Tropicana Field, which is the most of any visiting player. Alex Rodriguez is next with 30 homers and 73 RBIs.

HONORING BIG PAPI

Rays 3B Evan Longoria and RHP Chris Archer informally presented Ortiz with an oil painting of his 500th home run, which he hit at Tropicana Field last season. Ortiz was also given 34 special handmade Diamond Crown Maximus cigars and $5,000 donations in his name to the Miracle League of St. Petersburg, Florida and the University of South Florida Latino scholarship program.

UP NEXT

Red Sox: Ortiz will play at Yankee Stadium for the final time during a three-game series against New York that starts Tuesday night. "Playing baseball in New York is something that is very special," Ortiz said. LHP David Price (17-8) will start for the Red Sox Tuesday night.

Rays: LHP Drew Smyly (7-11) will face White Sox RHP James Shields (3-11) Monday night in the first of four games in Chicago.

© 2016 by STATS LLC and Associated Press.

 

Ortiz, Red Sox express shock, sadness over Fernandez's death

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Ortiz, Red Sox express shock, sadness over Fernandez's death

Like the rest of the baseball world, the Red Sox expressed shock and sadness over the tragic death of Marlins ace Jose Fernandez, who was killed in a boating accident in Miami. 

David Ortiz tweeted his thoughts before the game Sunday in St. Petersburg, where the Red Sox played the Tampa Bay Rays.

There was a moment of silence for Fernandez - who attended high school in the Tampa area after defecting from Cuba at 15 - before the game at Tropicana Field, and before all major league games on Sunday. 

There was to be on-field ceremony for Ortiz before his last game at the Trop, part of his retirement farewell tour, but it was canceled at Ortiz's request. A video tribute to Ortiz was shown during the game and the Rays gave Ortiz his retirement gifts privately.

Ortiz wiped away tears during the moment of silence. He wrote Fernandez's intitals and his uniform number 16 on his cap.

Fernandez had joked about how he wanted to give up a home run to Ortiz when he faced him as an N.L. pitcher in the All-Star Game this past July. 

"I told him yesterday that I am going to throw him three fastballs down the middle. I want to watch him hit a home run," Fernandez had said. 

Ortiz ended up walking against Fernandez, prompting this response from Big Papi:

First baseman Hanley Ramirez, who played for the Marlins, as well as other Red Sox players, also tweeted their reactions after hearing the news of Fernandez's death Sunday morning.