|Daisuke Matsuzaka walks off after failing to get out of the fifth inning against the Angels. (BILL GREENE/GLOBE STAFF)|
Matsuzaka comes up a little short
No, it wasn't quite Matt Clement short, but it wasn't exactly a lengthy outing for the workhorse from Japan. Especially for a guy who prides himself on pitching late into games.
But, unlike that Clement start, the 3 1/3-inning performance that started the Red Sox off as they were swept by the White Sox in the AL Division Series in 2005, Daisuke Matsuzaka's Game 2 outing didn't put his team in such a hole.
Matsuzaka didn't pitch well, there's no question about that. But he left room for a comeback, for a Manny Ramírez moment, the slugger's arms outstretched as the scoreboard numerals ticked up to a 6-3 win for the Red Sox.
"There wasn't anything I could be really happy about tonight," Matsuzaka said through his interpreter in the postgame clubhouse, perhaps the only member of the team who wasn't immediately overjoyed as the Red Sox went up, 2-0, in their best-of-five series with the Angels.
"I wish that I could have gone deeper into the game, and built a better game overall."
But the Angels got to him and got to him and got to him again, leading to his exit for Javier Lopez with two outs (and two on) in the fifth inning. He had already allowed 11 men to reach base, his pitch count soaring as the Angels milked pitch after pitch. He had thrown 31 by the end of the first inning, 59 by the end of the second. Though he settled down after allowing all three of his runs in the second, he couldn't make it through the fifth. His final line: 4 2/3 innings, 7 hits, 3 runs, 3 walks, 3 strikeouts, and 96 pitches.
"It was a lot of pitches," manager Terry Francona said. "Lot of deep counts. I thought even when he worked and started ahead, he found a way to get himself back into hitters' counts. But the one thing I will say, he didn't cave, he didn't give in."
Matsuzaka - hero of the big game in Japan - struck out Chone Figgins to open the game on a slider. He struck out Maicer Izturis to end the first. But in between he allowed a walk to Orlando Cabrera and a single to Garret Anderson, putting him on edge from the very beginning.
Starting off the second with a walk to Casey Kotchman, Matsuzaka followed by allowing an infield single by Kendry Morales. He got two outs in the inning (one scored Kotchman), but couldn't avoid further trouble, with doubles by Figgins and Cabrera rounding out the scoring.
"He has a little of that hesitation, which you kind of have to wait for him to get in his rhythm," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "You know, he made some good pitches. Settled down and put some zeros up after we got the three runs. But our guys were prepared, and I thought they got on him quickly and we got some two-out hits that [hurt him] that inning."
Though the Angels batters had not faced Matsuzaka, that hardly seemed to matter. Their video sessions had been enough. They knew what was coming, able to both batter the ball and be patient enough to wait for walks.
There would be more base runners, in the third, the fourth, the fifth. And then, after another walk to Kotchman in the fifth, he was gone.
It was only the second game this season in which Matsuzaka has failed to get through the fifth inning, the other coming Sept. 8 in Baltimore, when he allowed eight runs in 2 2/3 innings. But that was the regular season. This was the time when the Game 2 starter, inserted ahead of Curt Schilling, was supposed to earn his paycheck. His up-and-down (though mostly up) season would be softened with a particularly good performance.
That didn't quite happen.
"I think I approached the game in the same way that I approached the regular-season games," Matsuzaka said. "That being said, the results were somewhat disappointing for me. So, personally, tonight was a disappointment. But I'm also happy the team was able to win."
Amalie Benjamin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.