Dice-K follows worst career outing with best

191542.jpg

Dice-K follows worst career outing with best

By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com

BOSTON Bearing little resemblance to the pitcher who took the mound in his last outing on April 11, Daisuke Matsuzaka mowed down the Blue Jays Monday in what could arguably be his best performance in a Red Sox uniform.

In seven innings, Matsuzaka held Toronto scoreless, allowing just two base runners on a walk and a hit while striking out three. He needed just 89 pitches (58 strikes) to get through his outing against a very aggressive Jays lineup, as the Sox won the finale of their nine-game homestand, 9-1.

The two baserunners match his major-league low in 101 career appearances. On April 1, 2008, he also allowed just two baserunners, over 6 23 innings, in Oakland. In that game he allowed one run, throwing 91 pitches.

"He threw a lot of strikes," manager Terry Francona said. "There were a couple of points in the game where they got aggressive early in the count. There was one five-pitch inning. I just thought he filled up the strike zone. It didn't always go where he wanted to but it worked ahead. If they start narrowing the zone a little bit, their swings obviously become a little bit different.

"He changed speeds, the differential on his changeup was good. He gave up the base hit up the middle. Other than that, there was one walk. Well take that all the time.''

Matsuzaka rebounded from what was arguably the worst start of his career. On April 11, he lasted just two innings (plus two batters in the third) against the Rays at Fenway. He gave up seven runs on eight hits with two walks, two strikeouts, and two home runs. In the second inning, he faced 10 batters, giving up six runs, with the first seven reaching base before he could record an out.

Besides changing the skill for pitching, the biggest difference from the last outing was changing the way of thinking of pitching, especially mentally, Matsuzaka said through a team interpreter. "I tended to have a little bit of a negative aspect and I tended to think many thoughts from listening and hearing people. So the biggest thing is I tried to not think too much about my outings.

"All I can do is pitch the best and the result will follow through after showing the best performance. So the time between the last game and today's game I had time to think about it and tried to think more simple and I tried to think simple in practice and as I was getting ready for today's game."

With his outing Monday, Matsuzaka improved his record to 1-2, cutting his ERA in
half, from 12.86 to 6.43. After his previous outing, Matsuzaka believed if he had had a similar performance Monday, he may lose his spot in the rotation.

If I pitched badly, I thought there wouldnt be another chance, he said.

Pitching coach Curt Young was not concerned about any lingering negativity for Matsuzaka after his last outing.

As long as Dice-Ks been pitching, you get in that class, these five guys are really good at turning the page and moving on to their next start, Young said. So, he definitely too that in. Thats kind of how, when youre in the class that his, thats what good pitchers do.

With two outs in the first, Matsuzaka gave up a single to Jose Bautista. With two outs in the second, he allowed a walk to Travis Snider. After that he retired the next 16 batters he faced, before giving way to Alfredo Aceves. That 16-batter stretch is the longest he has gone in his career without allowing a baserunner.

He needed just five pitches to get through the sixth inning, striking out Jayson Nix on three pitches all looking and getting Yunel Escobar and Corey Patterson to hit first-pitch fly outs.

His performance Monday improves his career record against Toronto to 7-1 with a 3.46 ERA.

One motivator for todays outing was John Farrell, the Red Sox former pitching coach in his first-year managing the Blue Jays, Matsuzaka said.

On the mound . . . I dont really think about the other opponent. I focus on each
pitch to make sure its strong enough, he said. But, I also knew that Farrell is on Toronto so I want to show a solid performance in front of him.

Matsuzaka was paired with Jason Varitek against the Blue Jays. In his outing on April 11, Jarrod Saltalamacchia was behind the plate.

Before the game I had a chance to talk to Varitek and I agreed with what he said, Matsuzaka said. He told me to focus and throw right to his mitt. I know he tried to help my pitching.

The right-hander got better as his outing went on, Varitek said.

I think he was still getting his delivery in the first, Varitek said. He got away with a few pitches and then was able to work his way from there but he was better in the first. Location was better than it was in his prior two outings and then he settled in. He had a pretty good cutter today, had decent life on his fastball, had a tough feel for his slider for a long time and then we were able to find some spots to get him comfortable with it. Threw some good changeups.

Most important thing he stayed down when we wanted him down and up when we wanted him to go up. I think sometimes its the hitters too. Able to make some pitches in hitters' counts and they got some balls put in play.

Matsuzakas pregame anxiety over possibility losing his spot in the rotation was quickly assuaged.

After I changed my mentality, I tried to throw the best pitch and believed the result would follow, he said. After that thought, my mind was clearer and
I was able to focus on the game.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen

Pedroia returns to lineup as Sox look to extend winning streak to six

Pedroia returns to lineup as Sox look to extend winning streak to six


After leaving Thursday night's game in the fifth inning and missing Friday night's game, Dustin Pedroia is back in the Red Sox lineup Saturday as they look to extend their winning streak to six in a 4:05 game against the Seattle Mariners.

Pedroia felt pain his left knee Thursday night and was taken out of the game by manager John Farrell as a precaution. The rainy conditions and wet field were also factors in keeping the second baseman out Thursday and Friday. 

Pedroia (.288, two homers, 21 RBI) had surgery on the knee in October. It's the same leg that was hurt when Manny Machado slid into Pedroia at second base in April, the slide that sparked various confrontations between the Orioles and Red Sox.

Left-hander Brian Johnson (1-0, 7.20 ERA) was called up from Triple-A Pawtucket to make his second start of the season for Boston and right-handed reliever Ben Taylor was optioned to the PawSox. Right-hander Rob Whalen, 23,  comes up from Triple-A Tacoma to make his first start of the season for the Mariners. 

The lineups:

MARINERS
Jean Segura SS
Danny Valencia 1B
Robinson Canó 2B
Nelson Cruz DH
Kyle Seager 3B
Taylor Motter LF
Guillermo Heredia RF
Mike Zunino C
Jarrod Dyson CF
---
Rob Whalen RHP

RED SOX
Mookie Betts RF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
Andrew Benintendi LF
Hanley Ramirez DH
Mitch Moreland 1B
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
Sandy Leon C
Deven Marrero 3B
---
Brian Johnson LHP 

Rodriguez continues strong stretch as Red Sox blank Seattle, 3-0

Rodriguez continues strong stretch as Red Sox blank Seattle, 3-0

BOSTON -- The Red Sox scored runs in bunches in tallying four consecutive victories. They leaned on pitching and defense to earn their latest.

Eduardo Rodriguez pitched six scoreless innings and the Red Sox took advantage of a sloppy performance by the Seattle Mariners for their season-high fifth straight win, 3-0 on Friday night.

It was the third win in a row for Rodriguez (4-1), who gave up just five hits and struck out four while throwing a season-high 112 pitches. Craig Kimbrel earned his 13th save.

"I just go out there and pitch," Rodriguez said. "I'm never really thinking about numbers. I just go out there and throw my pitches and do the best I can do."

That effort is producing one of the best stretches of his three-year career.

Rodriguez has pitched at least six innings in his last seven starts, going 4-0 in that span. He hasn't allowed a run in 10 innings and only 11 runs in his last 49 1/3 innings. His ERA is just 2.01 over that same period.

"He was amazing," Jackie Bradley Jr. said. "Put zeroes on the board all night long. And he made the big pitch when he needed to."

The only run support Rodriguez needed came in the second inning, when Hanley Ramirez scored on Josh Rutledge's RBI groundout. Boston added two more runs in the sixth, scoring on a wild pitch and passed ball.

Manager John Farrell said his 24-year-old pitcher is in a "very good place" right now.

"He was powerful tonight," he said. "It's just a matter of his abilities coming together. This has always been an extremely talented young guy. We've talked about his maturity, we've talked about his progression. It's been on display here for a good number of starts consecutively."

Yovani Gallardo (2-5) took the loss. He lasted 5 1/3 innings, gave up seven hits and was responsible for all three of Boston's runs.

"The whole night obviously wasn't consistent," he said.

Seattle has won just one of its last seven.

Meanwhile, Boston gave Rodriguez got lots of help defensively. Bradley had a pair of nice plays, getting an outfield assist in the second and running down another ball on the warning track in the sixth.

In addition to the pitching miscues, the Mariners had all kinds of issues in the wet conditions, committing two fielding errors.

The Red Sox left 11 runners on base, leaving the door open for the Mariners to get back in the game. But Seattle couldn't capitalize, going 0 for 6 with runners in scoring position. The Mariners also left seven runners stranded.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Mariners: LHP James Paxton (strained left forearm) was slated to make a rehab start Friday night in Double-A Arkansas. He has been on the 10-day disabled list since May 5. He could be activated for a start at the end of the month against Colorado.

Red Sox: Infielder Marco Hernandez will be out the remainder of the season after undergoing stabilization surgery on his left shoulder on Friday. Hernandez was placed on the disabled list May 4 with a left shoulder misalignment. The 24-year-old hit .276 with two RBIs in 21 games. ... A night after he left the game with left knee pain, 2B Dustin Pedroia was held out Friday for what Farrell said was "precautionary reasons" because of the wet playing surface.

MISSING: OFFENSE

Mariners manager Scott Servais said they are doing everything they can to find production from an offense that has gone missing.

"Offensively, we struggled to put innings together. That's kind of been the story here for the last week or so, we just haven't gotten the line moving at all, for whatever reason," he said. "Guys are frustrated by it, we all are. We know we're better than that, offensively. It's not happening right now."

Seattle was held scoreless for the fourth time this season.

UP NEXT

Mariners: RHP Rob Whalen (0-2, 4.09 ERA in Triple-A Tacoma) will be making his first major league start since last season with Atlanta. He will be 12th different starting pitcher the Mariners have used this season.

Red Sox: LHP Brian Johnson (1-0, 7.20 ERA) will be making his second major league start this year and third of his career.