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Home » April 2008 Game CommentsApril 2008 » Isshō Kenmei [一生懸命]

Isshō Kenmei [一生懸命]

Game 13: April 13, 2008
Yankees 5 L: Philip Hughes (0-2) 6-7, 2 game losing streak
WinRed Sox 8 W: Daisuke Matsuzaka (3-0)
H: David Aardsma (1)
H: Javier Lopez (1)
7-6, 2 game winning streak
Highlights: Every once and a while I order specialty snacks from J-List, an exporter of specialty Japanese products founded by an American named Peter Payne (warning: they also sell producs for adults only). Not only does he run a great service but he also writes regular columns on his observations of Japanese culture. Like me, he was drawn to the idiom isshō kenmei, a concept whose characters translate literally to “to put one’s only life on the line,” or to try extremely hard.

That is exactly what Daisuke Matsuzaka had to do Sunday night. He threw 116 pitches in the minimum number of innings required for a decision, including a whopping 32 pitches to seven batters in the fourth. In each game a pitcher throws he puts his livelihood, which for elite athletes is the equivalent of life, on the line. Frigid nights chilling an arm with more than a hundred pitches on it was not the most cautious course of action for Terry Francona to take.

The Yankees were more attentive to their 21-year-old potential ace. Phil Hughes labored similarly but was pulled after just two innings and 65 pitches. He did start a third inning of work but, failing to get an out, was replaced by Ross Ohlendorf.

Hughes has family ties in Rhode Island and even grew up a fan of the Red Sox, but the Yankees gave him $1.4 million reasons to put aside his childhood allegiance. He is not extremely far removed from his boyhood, so it wouldn’t be surprising if pitching in the ballpark of his dreams did indeed impinge upon his vaunted talent. He did flash a superlative curveball that dropped like plum-bob; he used the tool to strike out Dustin Pedroia twice and Jason Varitek once.

David Ortiz took a mental health day. He should be joined by Mike Timlin: in two appearances since his return the reliever has surrendered two homers to Jason Giambi. Keeping Bryan Corey, in hindsight, seems to have been the better tactic. (Idea: have Timlin pitch to Ortiz to restore the slugger’s confidence.)

Even without the designated hitter the Boston offense proved formidable. Sean Casey knocked in the only extra base hit for the local nine, a ground-rule double to right. The torrent of runs in the first and third innings came thanks to free passes, passed balls, and timely singles.

The series win was enough to salve the torment of four hours of Joe Morgan’s commentary.

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