One shaky inning sends Dice-K to second straight loss
Daisuke Matsuzaka's lack of control in a key situation cost him against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Dice-K struck out 10 over six innings but forced in the go-ahead run with a bases-loaded walk to Gregg Zaun in the fourth, and Toronto beat the Boston Red Sox 2-1 Tuesday night despite getting just three hits.
Matsuzaka (1-2) retired his first eight batters and Wily Mo Pena's third-inning homer gave him a lead, but Lyle Overbay's single tied the score in the two-run fourth.
Jason Frasor, taking over as closer while B.J. Ryan is sidelined by a sprained elbow, got four outs for his first save since Sept. 20, 2005, against Seattle. He retired David Ortiz on a groundout to end the eighth with a runner on, then pitched a 1-2-3 ninth. Manny Ramirez lined out, and Kevin Youkilis and Mike Lowell grounded out.
Matsuzaka allowed just three hits and three walks in six innings as his ERA rose from 2.57 to 2.70. He struck out 10 for the second time in three starts — the previous pitcher to reach double-digit strikeouts twice in his first three major league starts was the Los Angeles Dodgers' Fernando Valenzuela in 1981.
Gustavo Chacin (2-0) allowed one run and six hits in 6 2-3 innings, and Casey Janssen got three outs before Frasor came in.
Matsuzaka's Toronto debut, combined with a $2 Canadian ticket promotion, helped draw a crowd of 42,162, Toronto's biggest since opening day.
Pena, starting in right as J.D. Drew got a night off from the starting lineup, was 0-for-7 this season before his homer, which bounced off the center-field restaurant.
Vernon Wells started Toronto's fourth-inning rally with a one-out single, Thomas walked on four pitches and Overbay singled under the glove of shortstop Julio Lugo.
Aaron Hill fell behind on an 0-2 count, then worked out a nine-pitch walk, and Zaun walked on five pitches. Matsuzaka threw two balls to Jason Smith, got a swinging strike, then retired Smith on a flyout to the warning track in center.
Matsuzaka struck out four in a row at one stretch, getting Alex Rios, Adam Lind and Wells in the fifth, then Thomas leading off the sixth.
Drew pinch hit and walked leading off the eighth, but was doubled up when he broke for second on Lugo's liner to third. Coco Crisp followed with a single before Frasor relieved.
Hideki Okajima relieved Matsuzaka in the seventh and struck out the side in his only inning.
Notes: Toronto's past three wins have all been by 2-1 scores. ... Toronto OF Reed Johnson underwent surgery on a herniated disk in his lower back on Tuesday. He's not expected back until July. ... A moment of silence before the game honored the victim's of Monday's shooting spree at Virginia Tech.
Manager Terry Francona wanted Wily Mo Pena to play two days in a row, so the burly outfielder is in the lineup again tonight, this time replacing J.D. Drew in right field.
The fact that the three games here will be played on turf was one reason Francona elected to give Drew the night off from the starting lineup, saving some wear and tear on his legs. So was the fact that the Jays are starting a left-hander -- Gustavo Chacin. Not that Drew can't hit lefties, said Francona, but Pena, a right-handed slugger, has shown in the past he can tattoo lefties.
But Francona wasn't comfortable enough just to insert Pena in Drew's number five slot. Instead, he elevated struggling Coco Crisp (.111) to the second spot in the order and dropped Kevin Youkilis into the fifth hole. Youkilis batted all around the order last year, including fourth. Pena is hitting eighth.
Pena had started in center for Crisp on Monday at home, but Francona said he wasn't benching Crisp, that he was just trying to find some playing time for Pena, who is 0 for 7 this season heading into tonight's game.
Francona said he acknowledges the fact the fans and media might be calling for a more prolonged benching of the slumping Crisp, but that he can't panic as a manager.
"What do they say, if you manage like a fan you'll end up a fan," said Francona. "He has scuffled. But if we take him out of the lineup and he has the ability to get hot, we're not going to see it and that would be a mistake on my part."
There was a story in the New York Times talking about how there are times in Japan when the manager of a team will reward a star of the game with a little extra money in an envelope.
Boston manager Terry Francona was unaware of that, he said today during his usual pregame chat with the media. And don't expect him to fill a white envelope with some crisp $100 bills for Daisuke Matsuzaka should the right-hander pitch a gem this season.
"He's got enough (money)," joked Francona of Dice-K, for whom the Sox have committed $103 million for posting fees and salary.
"It should be the other way around. If I manage a good game, he should be putting something in my pocket," cracked Francona.
Canada doesn't seem to be caught up in the same Daisuke Matsuzaka Mania that has swept the Red Sox' world in the United States.
Dice-K, who will be opposing Toronto's Gustavo Chacin tonight at the Rogers Centre in his third start of the season, has not been a focal point in the local and national media here that he was in his first two outings, in Kansas City and Boston.
The right-hander's name wasn't even mentioned on the sports pages in some of the Toronto newspapers.
That isn't to say that there isn't interest in Matsuzaka's performance from the Japanese media. In the main press box, the accredited Japanese media has been given 31 seats. There are only seven writers from New England papers covering the game.
The football press box has been opened for tonight's game to handle the rest of the Japanese media on hand for the game. The last time the Jays had to do that was in 2003, when Hideki Matsui and the Yankees visited Toronto.
It's not likely the football press box will be utilized tomorrow night, even though another Japanese pitcher will be starting. Tomo Ohka, who authored a perfect game for the Pawtucket Red Sox and pitched for Boston, will start for the Blue Jays against Tim Wakefield.
Julian Tavarez, who hasn't pitched since April 7 in Texas because of postponements caused by rain, threw to hitters early today at the Rogers Centre.
The right-hander, who tossed a side session indoors on Sunday after the Sox' game against the Angels was postponed, said he threw for about 13-15 minutes today, getting a feel for his start here on Thursday against the Blue Jays.
"It will help a lot," said Tavarez of the benefit of the session. "Facing hitters you get to use all your pitches. It helps keep my arm loose and in shape."
In his second outing of the season, Tavarez will be facing Toronto's ace, Roy Halladay on Thursday in a 12:30 p.m. start.
-Who's Hot: Julio Lugo (8 for his last 19), Kevin Youkilis (8 for his last 22), David Ortiz (6 for his last 12 with 2 home runs)
-Who's Not: Coco Crisp (0 for his last 15), J.D. Drew (0 for his last 7), Dustin Pedroia (1 for his last 17).
-Manny Ramirez has hit more home runs against the Blue Jays (51) than any other player.
-Boston's 2.72 team E.R.A. remains first in the American League, second in the major leagues.
-Red Sox pitchers have walked just 6 batters in the last 45 innings.
-Boston starters have a 1.50 E.R.A. over the last 6 games.
-The Blue Jays have won three in a row and five of the last six meetings against the Red Sox. Boston's 7-12 record against Toronto in 2006 was its worst ever. The Red Sox were 7-11 against the Blue Jays in 2005.
-Manny Ramirez is 2 for 11 lifetime against Blue Jays starter Gustavo Chacin. Ortiz's numbers are much better: 5 for 16 with two home runs.
The Sox' lineup will have a little different look, with Wily Mo Pena being given a second straight start, this time taking over for J.D. Drew in right field, causing a change in the batting order. The injury-ravaged Blue Jays, meanwhile, are filling holes.
Tonight's Pawtucket Red Sox game has been postponed due to inclement weather (there's a big shock). Tomorrow's game against Rochester will begin at the scheduled time of 6:15, and tonight's game will be made up as part of a doubleheader on Thursday, beginning at 12:05. Both games will be seven-inning games.
Today, we call Steve Krasner in Toronto to talk about the coming series with the second-place Blue Jays, and to review the Red Sox' offensive explosion against the Angels. Click here to listen to the audio file.
Manny Ramirez is off to his worst start through 11 games since he's been with the Red Sox, but it's not for lack of hustling. The left-fielder, who is frequently criticized for an allegedly lackadaisical approach, has been consistently running out ground balls and has made a number of good plays in left field.
As for the numbers, this would be the third straight year that they are unimpressive out of the gate. Here is a breakdown of Manny's stats through 11 games since he came to Boston in 2001:
Of course, Ramirez's less than stellar history starting seasons (2001 and 2004 excepted) doesn't stop some from suggesting that he's trying to play his way out of Boston. Again, I just don't see it.
The Honululu Advertiser's Boston Marathon story contained this lead: "In weather unfit for man, beast or Manny Ramirez, a hardy contingent of runners from sunny Hawai'i braved wind and rain to complete yesterday's 111th Boston Marathon." Hey, Manny played ... just a little later than planned.
Writing on the San Diego Padres Web site, Corey Brock discourages a fan's entusiasm about a possible Manny-for Scott Linebrink and Jose Cruz Jr. trade. Jose Cruz Jr.?
Ramirez has more home runs (25), RBI (77) and runs scored (61) at Toronto's Rogers Centre (formerly SkyDome) than at any park other than his past and current home stadium, Jacobs Field and Fenway Park. Toronto is the place where Manny ended his season-opening home run drought last year with a two-homer performance in the 17th game of the season.
I received a similar -- in tone, if not content -- e-mail yesterday regarding the story I wrote about Red Sox racial history; the writer (my apologies, but I don't have the e-mail in front of me and I don't remember his name) said the Sox have again regressed regarding their racial practices since they have only one black player on their roster. This was a hole in the story I actually wish I could have addressed when I wrote it, but I didn't have the space. The Red Sox may have only one black player, but that's at least partially due to the fact that the number of black players throughout baseball is significantly down. Their overall diversity, on the other hand -- the number of non-American whites on the roster -- has never been higher. As of this monent, 44 percent of the roster (11 of 25) is comprised of what are classified as minority players. (Coco Crisp, Alex Cora, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Wily Mo Pena, Julio Lugo, Manny Ramirez, J.C. Romero, David Ortiz, Joel Piniero, Hideki Okajima and Julian Tavarez). If you count Mike Lowell, which I believe MLB does, that percentage is 48 percent. The roster is not lily-white, as it was for too long in franchise history and was not so long ago. (In 1990, for instance, when Ellis Burks was the Sox' only black player, the only other non-American whites on the roster for the entire season were Tony Pena, Carlos Quintana and Luis Rivera.)
But get beyond the mathematics. Two of the three biggest Red Sox stars in the mid to late 1990s were Mo Vaughn and Pedro Martinez, and the organization promoted them as such. (Say what you will about John Harrington and Dan Duquette, but this effort to diversify started with them.) David Ortiz is the current face of the franchise, and Matsuzaka isn't far behind. Read the quotes from Tommy Harper in the story I wrote, about feeling the difference between what it's like now and what it was like then. These are not your father's Red Sox, the Tom Yawkey/Pinky Higgins/Joe Cronin Red Sox -- or even the Haywood Sullivan Red Sox, for that matter -- and I think that's obvious regardless of what the percentages might be.
Dan Tobin makes a good point about the symbolic message of sitting Coco Crisp on Jackie Robinson Day, but a better message might be that we've now reached the point where we no longer pay attention to things like that . . . and it's obvious Terry Francona never gave it a thought when he decided to rest Crisp and get Pena into the lineup.
I'm not saying we've reached racial nirvahna in this country or in this region; far from it. I am saying we've come a long way in the last 15 years or so in Boston as far as the Red Sox are concerned, and I don't think that point is debatable.
GENTLEMAN JIM . . . AND RICO: Bruce Markusen's Cooperstown Confidential relates a lesser-known tribute to the 1967 Red Sox, held last weekend at Cooperstown, and has nothing but kind words for Jim Lonborg. (And Rico Petrocelli, too.) (bruce.mlblogs.com)
AND FINALLY . . . The Boston Herald gets to the bottom of one of the strangest -- and funniest -- moments you'll ever see at Fenway Park: One fan throwing a pizza at another fan who was trying to catch a foul ball, which had Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy in absolute stitches yesterday. We all thought the guy was throwing the pizza at Garret Anderson, but it turns out he actually hit his intended target; this was the culmination of some trash-talking that had gone back and forth. Kudos to old friend John Tomase for an entertaining read.
And if you missed it, here's the inevitable YouTube clip: