Matsuzaka hammered in short-lived start

Matsuzaka hammered in short-lived start
April 12, 2011, 4:47 am
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By MaureenMullen
CSNNE.com

BOSTON For everything Josh Beckett delivered Sunday night against the Yankees, Daisuke Matsuzaka may have undone it all in two disastrous innings Monday against the reeling Rays, who entered Fenway Park with the worst record in baseball.

Matsuzaka lasted just two innings (plus two batters in the third), giving up seven runs on eight hits and two walks with two strikeouts and two home runs as the Rays pummeled the Red Sox, 16-5.

Yeah, show up early and youre excited for the game and by the second inning and youre kind of in survival mode, manager Terry Francona said. Thats a tough night.

Matsuzaka fell to 0-2, while his ERA more than doubled from 5.40 to 12.86. It was his shortest outing since lasting just one inning against the As on April 14, 2009,
in Oakland. He was put on the disabled list the day after that outing. This time around, however, both Matsuzaka and Francona assured reporters that the pitcher is healthy.

With the loss, Matsuzaka extended his career-high winless streak to seven starts, dating back to Sept. 7, 2010 against the Rays. In that stretch he is 0-4 (7.54).

The Rays entered the game hitting just .163 as a team. After pounding out 20 hits on Sox pitchers, they raised their team average to .201.

Matsuzaka has had limited success in his career against Tampa Bay. He's now 2-7 lifetime versus the Rays, with a 5.83 ERA.

To make it worse, Matsuzaka was facing a team that entered the game with a 1-8 record and had scored 11 runs in those 8 losses. Matsuzaka, however, surrendered seven runs in the first two innings.

In the first, he gave up a one-out, first-pitch solo homer to Johnny Damon before retiring the next two batters. In the second inning, though, the Rays sent 10 batters to the plate, with six scoring. The first seven eached base safely on six hits and a walk, including Sam Fulds two-run homer.

He came out in the first inning and threw a lot of strikes, Francona said. I know Damon hit the first-pitch fastball for a home run, but it looked like Matsuzaka was trying to establish fastball and breaking ball and he pumped strikes.

"And then we got into the second and everything went to the middle of the plate. There was one walk, but there was seven balls hit right on the barrel . . . We love when guys throw strikes, but there were balls that were middle-middle in the first seven hitters.

The timing of Matsuzakas stinker could not have been much worse. After taking two of three from the Yankees over the weekend, their first wins of the season, the Red Sox appeared to be riding high after Becketts gem Sunday night, shutting New York down on 10 strikeouts and two hits in eight innings. It should have been the kind of game that could generate some much-needed confidence and momentum.

How many times do you hear people say, Your momentum goes as far as your next day starter? And its true, Francona said. We felt great. Beckett pitched about as good a game as youre going to see. And were into the second inning and were swimming upstream. Thats a hard way to put anything together.

Matsuzaka had little explanation for his dismal performance.

Sunday Josh showed the great pitches and I wanted to bring the great flow to the team and throw todays game, he said through a team interpreter. But as you can see the result didnt follow through and I feel sorry for the team as well as the fans.

Based on the previous outing, previous experience, I wanted to go aggressive to pound the strike zone. However, my pitches came into the middle of the zone, and also I didnt have enough life to get the batters out.

It wasnt for a lack of mixing up his pitches, catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said.

I was happy with him mixing the pitches up, Saltalamacchia said. He didnt just sit on one pitch. A couple of them were up over the plate that they were able to put some hits together. The other night we did the same thing and they could foul stuff and miss. So we just have to erase this one.

We used everything in the second inning. A couple changeups we left up and they were able to hit well. But he kept battling.

Not for long, though. Matsuzaka exited with no outs and two runners on in the third inning, the Sox trailing 7-0. The boos rained down on him.

Nobody really wants to get a booing from the fans, he said. And only way that I can change this is to show the good result in front of fans.

Matsuzaka was still in uniform when he met with the media after the game, despite exiting nearly three hours earlier. He had been studying video in the interim.

I watched a video after the game and I noticed theres a clear difference between when I pitch well and Im bad, he said. So theres something to fix for this part of it.

While that may offer a measure of encouragement for his next outing, it gives little consolation for this one.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter athttp:twitter.commaureenamullen