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Home » May 2007 Game CommentsMay 2007 » Kantō [完投]

Kantō [完投]

Game 37: May 14, 2007
Tigers 1 L: Nate Robertson (3-3) 23-14, 2 game losing streak
8-2-3 series record
WinRed Sox 7 W: Daisuke Matsuzaka (5-2) 26-11, 3 game winning streak
10-2-2 series record
Highlights: Kantō translates to “complete game.” The first kanji [完] means “perfect” or “complete” and the second [投], in this context, means “throw.” There are homonyms for kantō that use different ideograms: 関東 means the the seven provinces of Tokyo, the region in which Matsuzaka was born; 巻頭 refers to the opening page of a book, in which a historic chapter was written last night; and finally 敢闘, which means “to fight bravely.” All fittingly describe the Red Sox rookie pitcher as he evolves into the pitching phenomenon that most hoped (and some dreaded) he would be.

He’s going the distance
He’s going for speed

But for one long jack in the third by Curtis Granderson Daisuke Matsuzaka would have had has first complete game shutout last night.

So far his career has progressed in fits and starts. At times he has been dominant as Roy Oswalt and other times as erratic as Rich Ankiel. On a bad day.

Rather than bursting onto the scene with blistering heat, Matsuzaka warms his fan base with his gradual improvement. A shutout over nine innings this early would too quickly bring his creation to a boil, so a complete game will suffice for now. How tantalizingly he works the crowd, like how he entices hitters to whiff on his toothsome slider, how Cake tapped into their audience’s anticipation as their lead singer’s drone builds into earnestness in “The Distance.”

They deftly maneuver and muscle for rank
Fuel burning fast on an empty tank.

Along with Boston and the Los Angeles Angels, Detroit stands at the top of its respective division. With respect to the American League, the Tigers are second in slugging, fifth in OBP, third in runs scored, fourth in home runs, and third in RBIs. These were not the Royals -- the Tigers are a bona fide, blue ribbon major league force that Matsuzaka went the distance against.

Reckless and wild, they pour through the turns

The Tigers became the prey, feeding off their own anxiety with slipshod defensive play. It wasn’t the “unproven” rookie who couldn’t withstand the pressure, but the former American League champions who skittishly, and ineffectively, dove for ground balls. Carlos Guillen flopped uselessly after a ground ball nubbed by Jason Varitek in the second after Mike Lowell had singled on another infield hit to his counterpart Brandon Inge. Although no run resulted, it were these minute misplays that ate into Nate Robertson’s psyche and pitch count.

Robertson departed the game with five innings under his belt but 115 pitches on his arm.

Their prowess is potent and secretly stern

The home team supported their starter with timely shots. Kevin Youkilis doubled into left in the bottom of the third and was driven in by David Ortiz’s slicing single into center field to tie the score.

With two outs in the fourth, Varitek reached for the pitch on the outside of the platter as he batted right-handed and poked it down the left field line. Magglio Ordóñez had difficulty digging out the ball and by the time he did the backstop stood defiantly at second. Varitek was driven in by Coco Crisp, who benefited from Granderson’s bad read of the fly ball to center. Perhaps the Tigers outfielders are too inured of the spaciousness of Comerica Park and are unable to adapt to new environments.

Ortiz smacked a double high off the wall in the fifth, further demonstrating that he is not just a dead pull hitter. Manny Ramirez singled in Ortiz with a grounder that leapt over the third base bag and kicked off the stands. Inexplicably, Craig Monroe held the rebound rather than even attempt to hose Ortiz at home.

As they speed through the finish, the flags go down

Matsuzaka disposed of three hitters in nine pitches in the top of the eighth. It was the first time he made it beyond the seventh inning. With his pitch count at 110, Terry Francona seemed tempted to allow his starter to begin the ninth. Matsuzaka dwelt in the dugout expectantly even as Jonathan Papelbon warmed up.

Bobby Seay was summoned by Jim Leyland to hold the opposition’s lead. Seay began promisingly enough by inducing a line out off the bat of Lowell. Then he walked Varitek and was inexplicably concerned with picking the runner off. Crisp sprayed a single to right and Dustin Pedroia pushed the ball past the infield to load the bases for one of Sunday’s heroes, Julio Lugo.

But he’s driving and striving and hugging the turns
And thinking of someone for whom he still burns

Lugo’s line drive to center-left bounded all the way to the wall. With his speed, the shortstop easily notched a triple. Three runs passed, and Youkilis added to the lead with a single to left. Instead of the relief that more runs provide, anticipation grew. What would Francona do?

Matsuzaka would be permitted go for the complete game. The pitcher had waited almost a half an hour during the scoring barrage, but Francona already had arms at the ready should the heart of the Tigers’ order prove too powerful. Gary Sheffield, Ordóñez, and Guillen, three of the more productive bats in one of the best offensive teams in baseball, were aligned between Matsuzaka and what would be a milestone in his career.

The pitcher relinquished a leadoff single to Sheffield that wasn’t much of a hit. Sheffield didn’t get around on it and rather just barely jammed the ball into left. The designated hitter wasn’t a bellwether, as the next three batters were dismissed by Matsuzaka in ten pitches. Easy as cake.

The fans get up and they get out of town
The arena is empty except for one man
Still driving and striving as fast as he can


Great post, and the perfect lyrics to accompany it.

JPO! I miss, and I'm sure others do, too, your WPA site. Thanks for visiting and I'm crossing my fingers for a Sox Watch comeback.

Thanks Joanna. My WPA site has been made more-or-less obsolete by the vastly upgraded WPA tools available this year from FanGraphs. I may still make some occasional posts there if I can find a way to add some value to the WPA statistics.

Speaking of stats, I like your use of the Baseball Reference data to illustrate Andruw Jones' five-K game last night. This is a great service they've got, and it's nice to be able to link directly to a search result like that.

Baseball Reference Play Index is simply incredible.

I didn't realize that FanGraphs added WPA. I need to stay in more to crawl the interweb.

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