Game 3 – Red Sox
Red Sox 4, Royals 1
Yeah, I went there. Figured I’d better get that headline out of the way early. And it’ll never be more appropriate for a game recap than now. To paraphrase Dennis Green, Matsuzaka is what we thought he was. 7 innings, 6 hits, 1 run, 10 strikeouts, 108 pitches, and a handful of deep sighs of relief from the upper floors on Yawkey Way. Matsuzaka became only the 3rd pitcher in modern big league history to give up 1 or fewer runs and strike out 10 or more in his debut. The niggling demands of my employer meant that I was unable to actually watch any of the action, so I’ll have to wait until next week to actually see for myself.
By my reckoning, Matsuzaka’s got 2 more major early-season hurdles to clear before settling in to try to answer the long-term questions. If yesterday was a circus, even in frigid middle America, next Wednesday promises to be P.T. Barnum’s wet dream, as Matsuzaka faces Seattle in his Fenway Park debut. The first batter to greet him in his first start in home whites will be Ichiro. Somewhere, ESPN employees are putting a ball gag in Steve Phillips’ mouth to make sure he doesn’t say anything demeaning to Asians. For the record, P.T. Barnum’s wet dream has nothing to do with Steve Phillips and a ball gag.
In addition to his home debut, Matsuzaka’s first start against the Yankees will also be freighted with drama, manufactured or otherwise. That’ll likely come later this month, as the Sox and Yanks square off 6 times in the season’s first month. I’m going to take a sedative.
For the 3rd time in 3 games, the Sox scored a single in the top of the 1st inning when Manny’s booming double plated Youks. And for the 3rd time in 3 games, the pitching was the story – another solid effort from the bullpen culminated in Jonathan Papelbon’s first save of the season, a 1-2-3 mow-down of the overmatched Royals. The Sox’ pen has now given up 2 runs in 10 innings, and none over the last 8.
Dustin Pedroia kept up his early-season success, going 2-for-4 to conclude a 5-for-10 series. Julio Lugo doubled and generated the Sox’ second run by stealing 3rd and scoring on John Buck’s errant throw. Even Coco Crisp delivered a timely hit to plate the game’s final tally. The offense did just enough to keep most of the heat off of the bullpen in the late innings, but have played second fiddle to the arms in the season’s infant stages. That recipe will cook up quite nicely if those arms maintain something close to their early pace.
Sweet news from another corner of the Sox' system, courtesy of Surviving Grady: Jon Lester tossed 4 shutout innings against the Yankees' AA farm club, allowing 2 hits and striking out 5 of the 15 batters he faced. Awesome.