Boston Red Sox

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."

Drellich: Injuries for Betts, Pedroia, Nunez, unnerving in final week

Drellich: Injuries for Betts, Pedroia, Nunez, unnerving in final week

BOSTON — Even before Mookie Betts wrist flared up and Eduardo Nunez re-aggravated his knee Monday, the Red Sox’ health situation looked tenuous heading into the final week of the regular season. Particularly when it came to position players. Dustin Pedroia was out of the lineup Monday after a 1-for-26 road trip.

Now the scene turns scary. Consider that every other American League team that has clinched a postseason spot (or in the case of the Twins, is expected to) is one of the majors’ top five teams in runs scored per game: the Astros, Yankees, Indians and Twins. The Sox are 10th. 

The Sox lineup lacks firepower to begin with. Losing any more at this time of year is a recipe for a rough October.

"It sucks. It sucks," Nunez said. "Especially this time of year when it's close to the playoffs. It sucks."

The regular-season results show the Sox have adapted well overall when guys like Pedroia and Nunez have missed time. But that’s the regular season, and adding Betts to the mix is just disquieting.

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Nunez on Monday returned to the lineup for the first time in 16 days. Now he isn’t expected back until during the Astros series, his right knee injury re-aggravated

But there’s room for good news yet. Betts is to get his left wrist examined Tuesday. A positive prognosis there, and there should be a sense of a crisis averted. On Monday night, he expected to be fine, but he also didn't know what was going on. 

Farrell before the game made clear Nunez wasn’t exactly full go yet.

“[His return is] quicker than what it possibly could have been. You’re talking about a ligament damage to the PCL [posterior cruciate ligament] and I know it’s less severe than an ACL/MCL, but still it’s about pain tolerance,” Farrell said. “It’s about managing it. His body has to recondition to take care of that. His muscles have to respond in a different way. … If he feels a little bit of a zinger, that’s going to go away. He’s not putting himself at further risk.”

Farrell said after the game the feeling is Nunez didn’t do any new damage, but nonetheless, it’s easy to think now the Sox should have waited longer

Meanwhile, Pedroia’s been managing a left knee injury all season and didn’t play.

“When the knee starts to talk back to him a little bit, we’ve all got to listen to it and give him a down day,” Farrell said. “I would expect him to be back on the  field tomorrow.”

Farrell thought it reasonable to connect the knee to Pedroia’s recent poor performance hitting wise.

All year, resiliency has been a buzzword for Sox because of their propensity for late-inning comebacks. Sunday’s eighth-inning rally against the Reds was the latest example, leading to the Sox’ 42nd come-from-behind win. 

How they’ve dealt with a variety of health situations adds another layer to their reputation for handling adversity. Per spotrac.com, the Sox have had the fifth most disabled list days this season, 1,601. 

The Indians were doubted going into last year’s postseason because of health situations with their pitching. They did pretty well. But it’d also be foolish to minimize the importance of injuries to Pedroia, Nunez and Betts, and how they look heading into October.

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Mookie Betts to get left wrist examined Tuesday

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Mookie Betts to get left wrist examined Tuesday

BOSTON — First Mookie Betts right hand was bothering him. Now his left wrist is acting up to the point he was pulled from Monday's 6-4 loss to the Blue Jays in the eighth inning and is headed for an exam to find out what's going on Monday.

"I’m not really that concerned. I think I’m  going to be fine," Betts said. "Just a couple days ago. I just took a swing and felt it. It’s just been kind of painful for swings, but that’s just the part of the season."

Betts felt it again on a swing Monday.

Betts, who's always a calm guy, didn't seem to be particularly worried. But when he was asked to describe the sensation, it sounded far from pleasant.

"Just like a sharp pain," Betts said. "I can’t really move my hand for a little bit, but I think, again, I don’t really know what’s going on. We’ll find out tomorrow."

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