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Home » June 2007 Game CommentsJune 2007 » Kuroboshi [黒星]

Kuroboshi [黒星]

Game 77: June 27, 2007 ∙ 11 innings
Red Sox 1 L: Joel Piñeiro (1-1) 48-29, 3 game losing streak
18-7-2 series record
WinMariners 2 BS: Sean Green (2)
W: Jason Davis (2-0)
42-33, 5 game winning streak
16-10-2 series record
Highlights: Kuroboshi translates literally to black mark. As I mentioned when describing its antonym, shiroboshi, the words come from sumo where winners and losers are denoted by white or black dots respectively. A disappointing loss to cap off the first three-game series sweep against the Red Sox this season. Boston is 1-3 in extra innings games this season.

It’s been a while since I’ve been this tense watching a game.

Already an avowed nail-biter, the contest rendered my fingernails to a state no manicurist could restore.

Watching Daisuke Matsuzaka pitch I had to wonder if someone translated Paul White’s column from USA Today for him. Expectations for him were stratospheric in Japan, where names like Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez were bandied about. That he isn’t leading the league in strikeouts also seems to be a mark against him; his precursor Hideo Nomo led his league whiffs and went on to be NL Rookie of the Year.

Much of Matsuzaka’s shortcomings aren’t based on actual production but rather comparisons to the unrealistic hype that accompanied his blockbuster signing.

Last year’s AL Rookie of the Year, Justin Verlander, ended with a record of 17-9, started 30 games total, pitched 186 innings, compiled a 3.63 ERA, and totaled 124 strikeouts. In 16 games, Matsuzaka has a record of 9-5, has notched 110 strikeouts (placing him third in the league), and has pitched 106 and two-thirds innings with a 3.8 ERA in a hitter’s park. Through June 2007 Fenway’s park factor is 1.335 runs while Comerica Park in 2006 was .980.

Matsuzaka carried a perfect game into the third inning. Mariners backstop Jamie Burke lined a double into center. Coco Crisp tried mightily to make make one of his signature snatches but it was not to be. A bloop single by Ichiro Suzuki over the heads of the infielders plated Burke for the only run allowed by the Red Sox rookie the entire afternoon.

The young starter pitched as if he were on a mission to prove he was worth every penny invested in his posting fee and multi-year contract. He struck out eight Mariners and only walked a single batter. The free pass he gave up to Jose Vidro in the bottom of the seventh seemed to be the result of having to spectate during the seventh inning offensive rally by his team.

J.D. Drew led off the top of the seventh with a liner to right and advanced all the way to third. Sean Green’s threw clumsily to first when fielding Julio Lugo’s bunt leading to runners at the corners with no one out. The reinvigorated Crisp lofted the ball deep enough to center so that even Suzuki’s lethal arm could not stop Drew from scoring the tying run.

That would be the only run in the visitor’s favor. Ryan Feierabend baffled Red Sox batters in the top halves of five innings and George Sherrill, Brandon Morrow, J.J. Putz, and Jason Davis combined to shut out Boston for three and two-thirds innings. Putz nullified David Ortiz in the ninth by striking the designated hitter out with 97 MPH heat.

The only bullpen pitchers proven safe and effective with minor side effects, Hideki Okajima and Jonathan Papelbon, combined to close down the Mariners offense. The southpaw did allow Suzuki to get within 90 feet of the tying run but Papelbon took over.

The relief ace looked dominant as ever. Richie Sexson popped out in foul territory on the first pitch of the at bat and Ben Broussard wafted the ball to infield for the final out of regulation play. Papelbon then struck out two of three batters in the tenth.

What’s a close loss without a web gem by the matchless Jose Lopez? Mike Lowell looked to have a surefire single with two out in the tenth but for Lopez’s range and coordination.

Terry Francona went with the hobbled Joel Piñeiro over the other bullpen options. Of course the others had all recently worked, but the move showed exactly how thin Red Sox relief pitching is after the Dynamic Duo.

Piñeiro tantalized by inducing a ground out from Burke but then walked Suzuki. Again Lopez proved pivotal to the game; his fly ball double evaded Manny Ramirez’s glove to score the series-clinching run.

Francona will be outguessed because of his choice to allow Lugo to bat with the bases loaded and three out in the eighth. It should be noted that Alex Cora, who would have likely batted in that spot, ground into a double play to end the 11th. Insert witticism regarding hindsight and optometry.

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