Matsuzaka gets aced out again
He fans 10, but Chacin and Jays handcuff Red Sox
TORONTO -- Red Sox manager Terry Francona was astounded yesterday to learn of a common practice in Japanese baseball known as "kantoku show," in which a manager doles out cash to players he considers deserving of a little bonus after a victory. Something extra in the envelope, for example, for Daisuke Matsuzaka.
"You're kidding me," Francona said when told of the "manager prize," as it is translated, according to an article in yesterday's
"It should be the other way around," he said with a laugh. "If I manage a good game, he should give me something."
Despite another superb outing by Matsuzaka -- and a dazzling three-K inning by Japanese teammate Hideki Okajima -- there would be no payoff of any kind for the Sox, who fell, 2-1, to the Blue Jays before a raucous crowd of 42,162 in the Rogers Centre.
Matsuzaka, pitching for the first time against an opponent he had not laid eyes upon before facing, gave the Sox six innings in which he was all but untouchable except for one hiccup. It would prove to be a costly one, as Matsuzaka could not survive an infield roller, three walks, and a tough, potential double-play smash that shortstop Julio Lugo could not glove in the fourth inning, when the Blue Jays scored both of their runs.
"He's definitely a good pitcher," said Frank Thomas, the Jays' newly imported strongman who drew a walk between Vernon Wells's one-out dribbler for a single and Lyle Overbay's RBI single that skipped past Lugo, then scored the winning run when Matsuzaka walked Gregg Zaun with the bases loaded. "But I don't think he's on his game yet. He had enough to shut us down. He had that one inning where he was a little wild and ineffective, but he's got pitches to finish people.
"He was as advertised. He's one of those guys you know in your mind that he's got pitches that can finish you."
Despite 10 strikeouts in six innings, which enabled Matsuzaka to match another international sensation, Fernando Valenzuela, with 10 or more whiffs in two of his first three big-league starts (Fernando did it in 1981), Matsuzaka came up a loser for the second time this season. This, despite giving up just two runs to the major leagues' hottest-hitting team (.294, 52 extra-base hits) coming into last night.
"I'd seen him pitch before," said Wells, a World Baseball Classic alumnus, who said the Jays managed to lay off Matsuzaka's rising fastball, a pitch they'd swung at in their first at-bats, to draw the walks in the fourth. "Obviously, he has great stuff. It was a matter of us trying to do a better job than he did. We didn't do much, but we did enough."
Wily Mo Peña rattled the windows of the Windows restaurant in dead center -- territory reached rarely, most memorably by Jose Canseco when he was with Oakland -- for his first homer of the season (and his first hit after seven outs), giving the Sox a 1-0 lead in the third. The Jays PR staff estimated Peña's homer at 442 feet.
"That was cool," said Wells. "You don't see that too often. I've seen guys go off the restaurant. I've seen Carlos [Delgado] hit a few, but that was one of the few I've had that landed up there right over my head. It was interesting."
But that was the only run scored by a Sox lineup shut down by lefthander Gustavo Chacin and two relievers.
Chacin, who followed Felix Hernandez's one-hitter to become the second Venezuelan in six days to outduel Matsuzaka, is fast becoming a Red Sox killer. He is 6-0 against them, the most wins by any active pitcher without a loss, and four of those wins came last season.
"It's hard to figure," Jays manager John Gibbons said. "I don't know, but he rises to the occasion. He has a very good feel for pitching. He gets a little out of whack at times, but has a good feel of what he's doing and has a knack for getting ground balls or a double play he has to have."
Chacin did not walk a batter in 6 2/3 innings and allowed as many as two runners in only one inning, the second, when Manny Ramírez and Mike Lowell singled, sandwiched around a called third strike to Kevin Youkilis. But Jason Varitek rolled into a double play to end that threat.
Coco Crisp doubled with one out in the third, ending an 0-for-16 slump, but he was stranded when Chacin induced Ortiz to fly to center.
Casey Janssen replaced Chacin after Varitek's two-out single in the seventh, and retired Peña on a harmless fly to right.
J.D. Drew, pinch hitting for Dustin Pedroia, drew a leadoff walk off Janssen in the eighth, and was on the move when the count went full to Lugo. There was thus no retreat for Drew when Lugo lined to third, Jason Smith throwing across the diamond for the easy double play.
Crisp kept the inning alive with his second hit of the night, a ground single up the middle. With B.J. Ryan out for at least six weeks, Gibbons called upon newly designated closer Jason Frasor to face the dangerous Ortiz.
"Never fails," Gibbons said. "Put a guy in for defense, and the ball finds him. Name a guy closer, and he gets the call in a 2-1 game. The baseball gods, they do it that way."
Frasor, who saved 17 games in 2004 and has had success against Ortiz (2 for 10), induced Big Papi to tap to the mound, then set down Ramírez, Youkilis, and Lowell in the ninth to end it. No Ryan -- not to mention no Troy Glaus, no Reed Johnson, no Brandon League, all injured -- no problem.
"Not too many people here are paying attention to that stuff," Wells said. "We're past making excuses, and we've had that excuse over the last couple of years. Guys getting hurt, it's no longer an excuse.
"We have guys who can fill in and help us win games. This is a challenge, but it's good for a team to go through these things early in the season and prevail. We'll be a better team for it."
Even if there won't be an extra envelope at the end of the night.