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Home » April 2007 Game CommentsApril 2007 » Kachi [勝ち]

Kachi [勝ち]

Game 3: April 5, 2007
WinRed Sox 4 W: Daisuke Matsuzaka (1-0)
S: Jonathan Papelbon (1)
2-1, 2 game winning streak
Royals 1 L: Zach Greinke (0-1) 1-2, 2 game losing streak
Highlights: Matsuzaka won his major league debut; the first Red Sox pitcher to do so since Juan Pena in 1999. Jason Varitek, a season after breaking Carlton Fisk’s record for games caught in a Red Sox uniform, went 0 for 4 and left four men on base. The backstop’s season is off to a slow start: 1 for 10 with no walks and two strikeouts. “Kachi” is one of the Japanese words for “win” or “victory.”

Zach Greinke pitched well enough to win. His line of 7 innings pitched, 8 hits, 1 earned run, 1 walk, and 7 strikeouts was not terribly different from his esteemed opponent, who lasted just as long, had two less hits, struck out three more, and surrendered a home run. This is what happens to otherwise outstanding young pitchers who have Mark Teahen playing right field like Wily Mo Peña or Alex Gordon learning the hot corner at the major league level on the job.

Most of Greinke’s season last year was scuttled because of his bout with social anxiety disorder. Don Orsillo mentioned that the pitcher was afraid of crowds, an inconvenient phobia for a major league pitcher to have. Unless that pitcher plays for the Royals, that is. The only overwhelming crowds he’ll have to contend with are when the Yankees, Red Sox, and Cardinals are in town.

Beneath the usually congenial veneer of Midwesterners was a hint of menace. They booed Matsuzaka when he stepped off the mound and did a few jumping jacks in the first. The impromptu calisthenics were designed to keep him warm as shown by the constant blowing into his hand. They home crowd made sure to jeer at every mound visit, too. Rather than attribute this unseemly behavior to an inherent flaw in the character of these bread basket inhabitants, I’m fairly certain the intemperate weather was to blame.

Matsuzaka’s face did not betray nervousness but his first inning performance did. David DeJesus muscled a single into center but was erased from the basepaths by Esteban German’s grounder to Dustin Pedroia. The second baseman relayed to Julio Lugo who nearly turned a double play.

The rookie righty then relinquished his only walk of the game to Mark Teahen. Matsuzaka induced a ground ball off the bat of Emil Brown, fielding it cleanly to initiate the 1-6-3 inning-killing double play.

Matsuzaka settled into a groove the next three innings and sat 10 batters in order. Alex Gordon disrupted the flow with his first major league hit, a single in the top of the fifth. Despite being advanced by John Buck’s single to center (which Coco Crisp mishandled), the Royals third baseman wouldn’t go on to score his major league run.

DeJesus led off the sixth with the 25th homer of his career and German followed up with a single to center. Yet again a double play spared Matsuzaka of further damage. Teahen inexplicably took a fat pitch on what seemed to be a hit and run play for the third called strike and Varitek hosed German at second. Next Brown launched a double deep into left, prompting a mound visit by John Farrell.

Although Gordon riddled himself out of a slump earlier in the game, in the sixth it was Matsuzaka’s chance to pad his Rookie of the Year resume against one of his primary competitors. Gordon fell behind in the count quickly. He chased a low splitter and then laid off the same pitch, which was called a strike. Matsuzaka went high with a fastball to tempt his nemesis to chase the heat. The third baseman admirably took that pitch but chased a low splitter again and was able to foul it off. The batter froze as Matsuzaka painted the outside black for the final strike.

There will be many more Matsuzaka/Gordon standoffs in the years to come; it will be odd to see this sequence played five, ten, twenty years from now.

Without the offensive support of Manny Ramirez’s RBI double in the first and Julio Lugo’s leadoff double and relentless exploitation of the Royals’ lackluster defense in the fifth, Matsuzaka could have been Greinked out of a victory. In the top of the eighth, the Red Sox notched a couple of insurance runs by David Ortiz (who scurried home on a wild pitch by Joel Peralta) and Crisp’s RBI line drive single to plate J.D. Drew.

The visiting team considerately did not score more and J.C. Romero pitched a solid, 15-pitch eighth, allowing Jonathan Papelbon to earn his first save of the season.

Although not entirely flawless, Matsuzaka displayed facets of brilliance that, with further polish, will continue to dazzle for seasons to come.


I don't pretend to know, but I'd think if I had SAD, the part of the day I actually spent on the pitcher's mound would be a blessed relief.
The locker rooms, airports, crowded buses and planes, and fans in my face would be terrifying, but when you're out on the mound, you're basically in the middle of a 60-foot bubble of aloneness.

Thanks for the recaps, Joanna. I'm working nights now and never get to see the games anymore, which really sucks. I always appreciate of your insights.

Thanks, Yaz! Not only is Yaz the name of an all-time Red Sox great and a British synthpop band, but it is now a trademarked brand of birth control.

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