BOSTON -- @font-face font-family: "Times New Roman";p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal margin: 0in 0in 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman"; table.MsoNormalTable font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Times New Roman"; div.Section1 page: Section1; When Terry Francona was asked what to expect from DaisukeMatsuzaka before Sunday afternoons game against the Minnesota Twins at FenwayPark, the Red Sox manager simply shook his head and responded as only an honestman -- one who's seen Matsuzaka pitch -- would.
If youre asking me if I know what were going to get outof him . . .
Francona didnt finish that statement, but everyone in theroom understood what he meant.
And before you knew it Matsuzaka had thrown 34 first-inningpitches, allowing three runs.
It was his first start in over a week. He left his last start, on April 29 against Seattle, in the fifth inning because of right elbow tightness. But he wasused in a relief effort early Thursday morning against the Angels and allowed two runs on threehits in the 13th inning, which saddled him with his third loss of the season.
Prior to Sundays start, Francona said thatwhatever happened to Matsuzaka against the Twins would have nothing to do withany type of physical limitation. He was feeling fine, the manager said.
And through just one inning on Sunday, it looked as ifMatsuzaka was going to have one of those days that have made him sounpredictable in the past.
But as unpredictability goes, so does Matsuzaka. Hesettled down and went on to allow only one more run on two hits and a walk, whilestriking out five, over the next five innings. With some help from hisoffense, he did enough to pick up his third win of the season.
I mean, the first inning, he gives up three runs, saidFrancona after Bostons 9-5 win over Minnesota on Mothers Day. Its aleadoff, little single to left, and another ball thats down the left-fieldline. Then he gets it to two outs, and the base hit up the middle that cost ustwo runs. After that, we thought, 'Let's hold the Twins down and see if we can jump back in it.'
And thats what happened. He put up some zeros. We had thefour-run third. And all of a sudden its a different game.
The first inning began with a Denard Span bloop single toleft that fell in front of Carl Crawford. Matsuzaka followed that up with hisfirst walk of the game, to Trevor Plouffe. After striking out Justin Morneau,Jason Kubel took a pitch the opposite way and blooped one just inside theleft-field line, scoring Span easily from second.
A Michael Cuddyer groundout moved the runners to second andthird with two outs, and Danny Valencia ripped a two-run single up the middleto give Minnesota an early 3-0 lead.
Matsuzaka threw 50 pitches through the first two innings,but settled down afterwards.
He came off a little bit of a layoff, and Im certainlyaware of guys exerting themselves in long innings, said Francona after thegame. That means a lot to us. Probably more than the total amount of pitchesat the end of the day. But he settled down, had some quick innings, and onlywalked two.
Matsuzaka finished the day with five hits allowed, fourearned runs, two walks, four strikeouts, and gave up a solo home run in thefourth inning.
Catcher Jason Varitek pointed out that, with help from theRed Sox offense, it was good enough, and the three-run first inning wasntnearly as bad as it looked.
He almost got out of the first inning, and then we hadthe other ball fall in, said Varitek. He had to work his way and keep it atone run, and then he left a cutter up, and a base hit ended up scoring theother two.
And he settled down. He wasnt quite as crisp and sharpwith everything. He had some good innings though. And it got us through thesixth.
I mean, in the first, it was two bloop hits in the sameinning, added Varitek. A bloop hit, a walk, and another bloop hit. And then,a ball hit well up the middle scored the other two runs. That doesnt tell thefull story.
Danny Picard is onTwitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard.