Thursday, April 12, 2007

King Missile

Game 8 – Red Sox

Mariners 3, Red Sox 0

Record: 4-4

Man, how great is baseball? I’m quite certain I’ve never felt less deflated after watching the Sox flail harmlessly about for nine innings. Last night was an object lesson in potential realized, and even though it came at the Sox’ expense, I’m glad I got to watch it.

Mariner righty Felix Hernandez woke the echoes of Pedro Martinez in Fenway Park, dominating the Red Sox offense in a complete-game 1-hit effort. J.D. Drew’s sharp single up the middle in the top of the 8th broke up Hernandez’ no-hit bid, but there was little to no chance that the Sox would mount any kind of sustained threat before or after. None of the 3 baserunners wearing home whites so much as reached second base, thanks to Hernandez’ otherworldly assortment of pitches and some timely defense from the Mariners’ middle infield.

As a SoSH poster from last night’s game thread eloquently put it, “I watch Matsuzaka pitch and I think, ‘wow, that’s nasty’. I watch Hernandez pitch, and my reaction is, ‘wow, that’s unhittable’.” Hernandez struggled through a disappointing sophomore campaign in 2006 as a result of carrying a few too many pounds on his young frame. Now 20 pounds lighter after offseason workouts, he’s held opponents to 4 hits in 51 at-bats thus far in 2007. His fastball topped out in the high 90s, and was augmented with nose-diving high 80s curveballs and sliders that skittered away from bats with alarming alacrity. (Cue Bill Raftery, I’m starting to feel it here.) After last night, I’m torn between wishing the Sox played the M’s more often so I could see this kid pitch more frequently, and really happy that the Sox don’t play the M’s more often so they don’t have to get bitch-slapped by a 21 year-old.

With all the oxygen in the greater New England area and most of the sporting universe sucked into Daisuke Matsuzaka’s orbit, it’s a wonder that that Sox’ import was able to lift his arm to get things started against Ichiro last night. Given the circumstances surrounding his home debut and the 45-degree weather, Matsuzaka’s 7-inning, 3-run performance was fairly damn impressive. He clearly struggled with his command, especially on breaking pitches, but even so managed to post a very quality outing. That bodes well for future starts when the weather approaches comfortable and he can relax a bit. Nothing to be ashamed of in last night’s loss, despite the obvious dejection Matsuzaka displayed in his post-game presser.

No real shame for the Sox’ batsmen yesterday, either. They just got beat by a guy who pitched what will almost certainly wind up as one of the top 3 games anyone will throw at the Sox all year. Tip your cap, and dig in against Jarrod Washburn this afternoon. Baseball, it’s pretty damn cool.

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