Dice-K stellar again, but totally different

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Dice-K stellar again, but totally different

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Even when Daisuke Matsuzaka is consistent, he's entirely unpredictable.

As the Red Sox surely know from experience, it's hard to know what to expect from Matsuzaka from start to start. Brilliant outings are followed by clunkers, and vice versa.

But even when Matsuzaka strings together two really strong outings in a row, it's hard to see much in the way of a common denominator.

The pitching lines from Matsuzaka's last two starts are somewhat similar. After holding the Toronto Blue Jays to a single hit over seven innings last Monday, Matsuzaka tossed another one-hitter Saturday against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, shutting them out for eight innings.

But, according to the man who called and caught both games, that's where the similarities end.

"They were kind of different,'' said Jason Varitek after the Sox had posted their fourth win in a row, a 5-0 blanking of the Angels. "He was a little powerful today than he was against Toronto and got a lot of free-swing outs with his cutter against Toronto, where he didn't get those today.

"It's kind of, really, two different guys. A changeup guy today and he threw a lot of cutters the other day. He always has a retpertoire and it's kind of (dependent) on how (the stuff) matches up with the team you're playing.''

Either approach, Varitek offered, was far better than his abysmal outing against Tampa Bay earlier this month when Matsuzaka was rocked for seven runs in two innings.

But, in keeping with Matsuzaka's unpredictability, he followed arguably his worst start as a member of the Red Sox with what the pitcher himself classified as his two best.

And, of course, in keeping with his contrarian ways, Matsuzaka insisted that Saturday's start was the result of the same approach he took against the Jays.

"I pitched the same way as the last game,'' insisted Matsuzaka. "I brought the same mentality and I executed with the same technique.''

The Sox aren't about to argue as long as he continues to pitch at this level.

"He was throwing strikes, changed speeds and stayed out of the middle,'' concluded Terry Francona. "That was fun to watch.''

"When he goes out there and throws strikes and throws it where he wants to,'' said Kevin Youkilis of Matsuzaka, "that's what he can do. It was good to see him come out, throw strikes, get ahead and make those hitters not feel comfortable in the box.''

However Matsuzaka did it, his start extended a terrific stretch turned in by members of the Red Sox starting rotation. Over the last last eight games, the starters have combined for a 1.01 ERA. In that span, no starter has allowed more than two runs in any out outing.

"It's a good way to play,'' said Francona. "I hope they're feeding off each other a little bit. You give yourself a chance to win. Going through the rotation a time or two and getting some consistency and stability really helps.''

And it's not just the others pitchers who are benefiting from the turnaround in the rotation.

The offense, thought still not as formidable as had been predicted, is starting to show positive signs. Jason Varitek snapped a 19 at-bat hitless streak. Jacoby Ellsbury had two hits and two steals. Carl Crawford enjoyed a multi-hit game.

"We definitely feed off the (starters' work),'' said Crawford. "It gives us a good start and we're able to go from there.''

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Brian Johnson: 'Awesome feeling' after five-hitter vs. Mariners

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Brian Johnson: 'Awesome feeling' after five-hitter vs. Mariners

BOSTON - Brian Johnson had quite a turnaround in his second time on Fenway Park's mound.

Johnson pitched a five-hitter in his first big league appearance at Fenway, and the Boston Red Sox stretched their winning streak to a season-high six games with a 6-0 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Saturday.

The 26-year-old left-hander became the first Red Sox pitcher to throw a shutout in his first Fenway start since Pedro Martinez on April 11, 1998. In Johnson's first start in Fenway - his fourth as a professional - he sustained a season-ending facial fracture when he hit by a line drive while pitching for Class A Lowell in 2012.

"The last time I walked off the mound here was 2012 and I made two pitches," Johnson said. "Today I went nine innings. Today was pretty cool."

Johnson left Triple-A for a little over a month last season to get treatment for an anxiety issue.

"Obviously with some stuff that I've been gone through in my career, it's an awesome feeling" he said.

But despite the stellar outing, Johnson was optioned back to Triple-A after the game.

"That's the reality of the game," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "We had a chance to congratulate him and yet option him back to Pawtucket, with David Price coming here Monday."

Brought up from the minors for the start, Johnson (2-0) gave up five singles, struck out eight and walked none. His only previous big league starts were at Houston on July 21, 2015, and at Toronto on April 18 this year.

Johnson was helped by a semi-leaping catch by center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. at the wall in the sixth, Bradley's diving grab of Nelson Cruz's sinking liner in the ninth and Bradley's game-ending running catch of Kyle Seager's drive.

Xander Bogaerts' RBI single triggered a three-run first inning and Bradley hit a two-run homer in the sixth

Shut out for the second straight day, Seattle has lost seven of eight.

"Their guy threw the ball over the plate. He threw strikes," Mariners manager Scott Servais said. "I won't take anything away from what he did, but we're not swinging the bat very well."

Rob Whalen (0-1) gave up five runs and seven hits over 5 1/3 innings in his Mariners' debut, his first big league start since Aug. 23 for Atlanta. He is Seattle's 12th starting pitcher, the most in the major leagues.

Andrew Benintendi and Sandy Leon also had RBI singles in the first, when the Red Sox had two batters hit by pitches, two walks and two runners thrown out on the bases - Dustin Pedroia at third for the first out and Hanley Ramirez at the plate for the last.

Johnson beats Mariners 6-0 for Red Sox' 6th straight win

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Johnson beats Mariners 6-0 for Red Sox' 6th straight win

BOSTON - Brian Johnson pitched a five-hitter in his first big league appearance at Fenway Park, and the Boston Red Sox stretched their winning streak to a season-high six games with a 6-0 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Saturday.

Brought up from Triple-A Pawtucket, Johnson (2-0) gave up five singles, struck out eight and walked none. The 26-year-old left-hander's only previous big league starts were at Houston on July 21, 2015, and at Toronto on April 18 this year.

Johnson became the first Red Sox pitcher to throw a shutout in his first Fenway start since Pedro Martinez on April 11, 1998. In Johnson's first start in Fenway - his fourth as a professional - he sustained a season-ending facial fracture when he hit by a line drive while pitching for Class A Lowell in 2012.

Johnson was helped by a semi-leaping catch by center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. at the wall in the sixth, Bradley's diving grab of Nelson Cruz's sinking liner in the ninth and Bradley's game-ending running catch of Kyle Seager's drive.

Xander Bogaerts' RBI single triggered a three-run first inning and Bradley hit a two-run homer in the sixth

Shut out for the second straight day, Seattle has lost seven of eight.

Rob Whalen (0-1) gave up five runs and seven hits over 5 1/3 innings in his Mariners' debut, his first big league start since Aug. 23 for Atlanta. He is Seattle's 12th starting pitcher, the most in the major leagues.

Andrew Benintendi and Sandy Leon also had RBI singles in the first, when the Red Sox had two batters hit by pitches, two walks and two runners thrown out on the bases - Dustin Pedroia at third for the first out and Hanley Ramirez at the plate for the last.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Mariners: RHPs Hisashi Iwakuma and Felix Hernandez, both on the DL with right shoulder inflammation, threw bullpen sessions. Hernandez said he "felt really good."... LHP James Paxton (strained forearm) is set to come off the DL and pitch at home Wednesday.

Red Sox: Pedroia was back at second base after getting Friday off to rest his sore left knee and not play on a wet field. He was hit by a pitch on the right forearm his first time up and went 1 for 3. ... 3B Pablo Sandoval, on the DL with a sprained right knee, was expected to play nine innings Saturday night in a rehab assignment with Triple-A Pawtucket. Manager John Farrell didn't rule out that he could be activated next week.

UP NEXT

Mariners: RHP Christian Bergman (1-2, 6.30 ERA) gave up 10 runs and 14 hits over four innings in a 10-1 loss Tuesday at Washington.

Red Sox: RHP Rick Porcello (3-4, 4.35) has gone at least six innings in eight of nine starts.