BOSTON Before the series finale against the Marlins, manager Bobby Valentine was asked what he would like to see from Daisuke Matsuzaka in his third start since returning from Tommy John surgery.Id like him to participate in a winning performance, Valentine said. That would be a good thing. Hes feeling better. Id like him to get through that first inning clean, also. Both of those things would be nice to see.Valentine got neither from Matsuzaka. Despite that, the Red Sox did manage a 6-5 win and a three-game sweep of the Marlins.In a first inning that took 30 minutes, Matsuzaka faced seven batters, with three scoring, as he allowed three hits and a walk, with three stolen bases and a strikeout. He threw 33 pitches, 19 for strikes, a less-than-ideal 58 percent strike rate.Matsuzaka gave up a lead-off single to Jose Reyes before getting Hanley Ramirez to ground out to Mike Aviles at shortstop. He then walked Giancarlo Stanton, who stole second with Logan Morrison batting. Matsuzaka struck out Morrison, looking at 93-mph fastball, but with two outs, he allowed a two-run single to Greg Dobbs, scoring Reyes and Stanton. Dobbs stole second then scored on Omar Infantes single to center. With Scott Cousins batting, Dobbs stole second. Matsuzaka got Cousins to fly out to Ryan Kalish to end the inning.In typically confounding Matsuzaka fashion, the right-hander rebounded. Including Cousins as the last out of the first inning, Matsuzaka retired 14 batters in a row, with three strikeouts in that span, getting him into the sixth inning with one out.Meanwhile, Sox batters got to Marlins starter Carlos Zambrano for two runs in the fourth and another in the fifth to tie the game.Matsuzaka got through five innings on 90 pitches, 63 of which were strikes. Matsuzakas season high was 93 pitches in six innings in his last outing, June 15 in Chicago. But he returned for the sixth inning, with the score tied, 3-3, and with right-handed hitters Ramirez and Stanton due up. Morrison, a lefty, would be next. So Sox lefty Andrew Miller was warming up to start the inning.Matsuzaka got Ramirez to ground out to Will Middlebrooks to open the sixth. But with apologies to Dustin Pedroia here Stanton blistered a laser beam into the first stairwell in the left field Monster seats.Matsuzakas outing was done.There were a couple of things said after the first inning and he was also very, very hot, Valentine said after the game, which had a 92 degree temperature at first pitch.We wanted to bring a towel rather than a messenger. He didn't adjust well to all that sweating. After that he was near perfect and hung one ball to Stanton, and increased his velocity, threw more strikes, worked quicker, did everything that we wanted him to do.Matsuzaka, who is still in search of his 50th career win, saw his ERA go from 5.73 to 6.06 with the outing. Although he left with the Sox trailing by a run, the Sox offense pulled out the late-innings win.Honestly, I think Dice did awesome, said catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. He battled. He got to the second, third and got two big outs for us. And then Dobbs, hes a professional hitter, been doing it for years. We tried to go cutter in off the plate a little bit and got too much of the plate and he was able to do something with it. But he did a great job with Logan whos been, we cant miss his barrel this whole series. That was a big out for us. Almost got out of it. After that Dice just went back to what he does best. Just mixing his pitches, making them a little off balance and making good pitches.For Stanton, it was his 15th home run of the season, first since June 7 against the Braves.Matsuzaka was a little shaky in the first inning, Stanton said. Besides that, he did a great job. He was working in and out and using all his pitches. He had our timing a little off.
In a season filled with plenty of disappointment over the first two months, Eduardo Rodriguez provides excitement and injects life into the Red Sox in his MLB debut.