A SEASON IN THE DRINK
(CHICKEN & BEER) ...
Dice-K gives his strongest performance
April 18, 2011 ...
Daisuke Matsuzaka knew he was walking a tightrope. He could sense
patience was running thin. That much was evident when he took the
mound for today's Boston Marathon matinee against the Blue Jays at
Fenway Park and he was booed by the crowd of 37,916.
of Matsuzaka's two-inning, seven-run, eight-hit debacle against the Rays the
previous Monday lingered. And after the struggling Red Sox had put together
back-to-back wins against the Sons of John Farrell, Matsuzaka didn't want to
kill the momentum before the team left on a 10-day trip to the West Coast.
concern gave way to confidence in a 9-1 victory. Matsuzaka needed just one
inning to win back the crowd, working a scoreless first despite allowing a
single up the middle by Jose Bautista. He did not give up another hit and threw
six more scoreless frames in recording his first win of the season, which
dropped his earned run average from 12.86 to 6.43, and helped the Sox improve to
5-10. They finished the homestand with a 5-4 record.
Youkilis went 2 for 5 with a two-run homer combined with Jed Lowrie (4 for 5, 4
RBIs, two-run homer) and Jacoby Ellsbury (1 for 4, solo homer) to pace a
season-high 13-hit attack.
walked Travis Snider with two outs in the second, then retired a career-high 16
consecutive batters before turning it over to the bullpen. Yunel Escobar hit a
solo homer in the ninth off Tim Wakefield. The two runners Matsuzaka allowed
tied for his fewest in his 101 major league starts.
credited his vastly improved performance to a different mental approach and
because he was motivated not to lay another egg, as he had in that 16-5 loss to
the Rays, in front of his former pitching coach, Farrell, now Toronto's manager.
Of course, a
little run support helped. The Sox tagged Toronto lefthander Ricky Romero for
five runs on eight hits. He gave up a two-run blast to Lowrie in the fifth that
made it 5-0, and Youkilis hit a two-run shot off Luis Perez in a three-run sixth
that stretched Boston's lead to 8-0. Ellsbury, who leads the team with four
homers, hit a solo shot to deep right off reliever Octavio Dotel in the seventh
to make it 9-0.
Crawford, who struggled in the leadoff position during the homestand, going 3
for 32, snapped an 0-for-15 streak with a double off the wall to drive in the
third run of the sixth. The crowd, which had been giving it to him like it had
Matsuzaka, gave him a standing ovation when he reached second.