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."

Weird umpire replay mistake helps Red Sox to record-tying 20 Ks

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Weird umpire replay mistake helps Red Sox to record-tying 20 Ks

New York’s mistake helped the Red Sox, and they weren’t playing the Yankees.

The Red Sox struck out 20 in a game for the third time in franchise history on Thursday night, and they were able to do so only after MLB’s replay team — based in Manhattan — gave Craig Kimbrel an extra batter to strike out in the ninth inning.

A 6-2 win over the Rangers featured 16 strikeouts for Red Sox pitching heading into the top of the ninth at Fenway Park. Kimbrel came on for a non-save situation because he had five days off previously.

There’s always that outside chance for a four-strikeout inning, and it happened. Even for a four-strikeout inning, however, this was bizarre.

The first batter, lefthanded hitting Nomar Mazara, swung and missed at a back-foot breaking ball for strike 3 — a literal back-foot breaking ball, because it hit him in that foot after he whiffed on the pitch.

On a swing and a miss with a pitch that hits the batter, the ball should be dead. He should not have been able to reach first base. But the umpires didn’t catch the ball hitting Mazara, and instead saw it as a wild pitch. 

Sox manager John Farrell asked for a review and the umpires went for one, but came back empty-handed. The crew was told, erroneously, that the play could not be looked at and the batter was awarded first base.

“It was just a swinging strike three, ball that go away and he obviously reached first base,” crew chief Alfonso Marquez told pool reporter Tim Britton of the Providence Journal. “The only thing that I can tell you, and the only thing I will say is, this was a replay issue. New York will come out with a statement.”

You could say it worked out just fine. Kimbrel went on to strike out the next three, and got the Sox to 20 Ks.

Kimbrel and Tim Wakefield are the only Red Sox pitchers to fan four batters in a single inning. Wakefield did it in the ninth inning on Aug. 10, 1999. 

Kimbrel did it once before as well, when he was with the Braves on Sept. 26, 2012.

No one has struck out five in a major league inning, although Kimbrel has as good a chance as anyone.

“The guy strikes out the world,” Matt Barnes said. “It’s ridiculous. … His fastball is seemingly unhittable. Complement that with the breaking ball he’s got, which comes right off that same plane, when he’s commanding it like he is, the numbers kind of speak for themselves. It’s kind of ridiculous. It’s fun to watch.”

The Sox have struck out 20 in a nine-inning game three times since 1913. Roger Clemens' two 20-strikeout games are the other two.

Red Sox win 4th straight behind stellar outing from Pomeranz, 6-2

Red Sox win 4th straight behind stellar outing from Pomeranz, 6-2

BOSTON - Drew Pomeranz pitched six strong innings and tied his career high with 11 strikeouts to lift the Boston Red Sox to a 6-2 victory over the Texas Rangers on Thursday night.

Xander Bogaerts and Deven Marrero hit their first home runs of the season helping Boston to their fourth straight win.

Pomeranz (4-3) made it as far as six innings for the third time this season and beat Texas for the first time in nine career outings.

Elvis Andrus homered and Nomar Mazara had two hits and an RBI for Texas, which has lost four of five overall and has lost 15 of 21 on the road.

Andrew Benintendi and Mitch Moreland had RBI singles in the first inning as Boston got to Rangers pitcher Nick Martinez (1-3) early.