Sox let one get away
Matsuzaka hit early and often
This one got ugly in a hurry.
One inning after serving up a solo homer to Johnny Damon, Daisuke Matsuzaka felt the full wrath and fury of a Fenway Park crowd of 37,568 who became clearly agitated by Matsuzaka’s inability to get out of a six-run, six-hit second inning.
It proved an insurmountable deficit for the Red Sox in last night’s 16-5 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays, who pounded out 20 hits against a quartet of Sox pitchers and nearly matched their run production from their first nine games (20).
While the boos were initially directed at Damon in his return to Fenway, they were redirected at Matsuzaka after each pitch he grooved during the interminable second inning.
It ruined Matsuzaka’s 100th career start and left him staring at an 0-2 record and a 12.86 ERA. He gave up seven runs on eight hits, including Damon’s homer on a first-pitch fastball and Sam Fuld’s shot in the second.
Fuld, a native of Durham, N.H., who was making his first appearance at Fenway, went 4 for 6 with 3 RBIs and 11 total bases, four more than the left fielder had all season.
Matsuzaka’s disappointing performance was a complete turnabout from the masterful job Josh Beckett submitted (two hits and 10 strikeouts over eight innings) in Sunday night’s 4-0 shutout of the Yankees. Sox starters now have a combined 7.26 ERA.
“Josh pitched such a great game and I wanted to keep the momentum going, but I wasn’t able to do that,’’ a contrite Matsuzaka said through an interpreter, haltingly. “I’m sorry to my teammates and to the fans.’’
Rays starter Jeremy Hellickson earned his first win of the season by holding the Sox to a pair of runs and five hits in 5 1/3 innings, though he allowed a career-high five walks.
Matsuzaka, meanwhile, could find no refuge on the mound. He allowed the first seven batters in the second to reach base.
“It looked like he was trying to establish fastball and breaking ball, and he pumped strikes,’’ said Sox manager Terry Francona. “Then we got to the second and everything went to the middle of the plate. There was one walk, but there were seven balls hit right on the barrel. We love when guys throw strikes, but there were balls that were thrown middle-middle for seven hitters.’’
When the first six batters wound up scoring, it only added to the fans’ frustration. It wasn’t until Matsuzaka induced Matt Joyce to ground to second for the first out of the inning that the crowd finally cheered him, mockingly.
After he knocked down Dan Johnson’s comebacker for the second out and then struck out Ben Zobrist, the 10th batter of the inning, Matsuzaka departed the mound with his chin buried in his chest.
“Nobody wants to be booed by the fans,’’ Matsuzaka said. “The only way I can change it is to produce better results.’’
He returned for the third inning, but got the hook after giving up a single to B.J. Upton and walking Felipe Lopez.
Tim Wakefield, who was greeted with a rousing ovation, got the Sox out of the jam when he picked off Upton at second, and then induced John Jaso to hit into a 4-6-3 double play.
Wakefield, though, hardly fared any better over his next three innings, allowing one run each in the fourth and fifth, and three runs on three hits and a walk in the sixth before he was lifted with one out.
Trailing, 7-0, the Sox got on the board in the third when Adrian Gonzalez, showing little effect from getting hit on his right hand by a pitch the night before, hit a triple to right that eluded the diving Joyce, scoring Dustin Pedroia, who had walked.
In the fourth, David Ortiz tripled to center and scored on J.D. Drew’s single to right, making it 8-2.
The Sox managed to push across another run in the seventh, but only after Zobrist, the Rays’ second baseman, speared a liner by Kevin Youkilis with the bases loaded, doubling up Pedroia at second. With men on the corners, Ortiz delivered an RBI single to center to make it 12-3.
Jacoby Ellsbury got another run back in the eighth with a homer to right off Joel Peralta, then the Rays padded their lead with four in ninth off Dan Wheeler.
“How many times have you heard people say, ‘Your momentum goes as far as your next day’s starter,’ ’’ Francona said. “It’s true. We felt great about the way Beckett pitched. It was as good a game as you’re going to see. Then we’re swimming upstream in the second inning. It’s a hard way to put anything together.
“The good news is that [Jon] Lester is tomorrow.’’
Michael Vega can be reached at email@example.com.