BOSTON Before the game, manager Bobby Valentine said he was anxious to get Daisuke Matsuzakas first start in his Red Sox managerial tenure over with because he had no idea what to expect.
Matsuzaka gave Valentine five innings, giving up four runs on five hits and a walk with eight strikeouts and a home run. He threw 80 pitches, 52 strikes, facing 20 batters. But Valentine may still not be sure what he can expect from the Japanese right-hander.
The Sox lost their second straight game, 4-2, to the Nationals at Fenway Park Saturday afternoon.
Matsuzaka started out strong. He struck out Steve Lombardozzi and Ryan Zimmerman, both swinging at sliders, with a Bryce Harper fly out sandwiched in between, in the first inning. He needed just 12 pitches, nine for strikes, in the inning.
Despite a lead-off, first-pitch home run by Adam LaRoche in the second, Matsuzaka looked solid through the first three innings when he faced one batter over the minimum. He had five strikeouts in that span three swinging at sliders, one looking at a slider, and another looking at a 91-mph fastball.
But he ran into trouble in the fourth, giving up three runs on three hits and a walk. A nice double play started by Adrian Gonzalez sliding catch in right field and then doubling Ian Desmond off first, saved Matsuzaka from more damage.
The Sox offense, meanwhile, could do little with Nationals left-hander Gio Gonzalez. In five previous starts against the Sox, Gonzalez had not gone more than six innings and had not allowed fewer than three runs.
In the first four innings, though, the Sox had just one baserunner when David Ortiz doubled to lead off the second then took third on a wild pitch. But that was as far as he got.
The Sox had baserunners in the fifth and sixth innings, without being able to score, before driving Gonzalez from the game in the seventh after a one-out walk to Will Middlebrooks and a single by Mike Aviles.
Right-hander Craig Stammen entered the game and walked pinch-hitter Ryan Sweeney. Lefty Michael Gonzalez entered to face pinch-hitter Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who hit a first-pitch two-run single off the wall in left field. But Gonzalez struck out Daniel Nava, looking at a 92-mph fastball, and got Dustin Pedroia to pop out in foul ground to first baseman Adam LaRoche to end the Sox threat.
Franklin Morales relieved Matsuzaka to throw three perfect innings with three strikeouts. Alfredo Aceves pitched a perfect ninth.