|Game 143: September 15, 2009|
|Angels||1||L: John Lackey (10-8)||86-58, 2 game losing streak|
|Red Sox||4||W: Daisuke Matsuzaka (2-5)|
H: Ramon Ramirez (11)
H: Billy Wagner (3)
H: Daniel Bard (11)
|85-58, 6 game winning streak|
| Highlights: The Japanese word for designated hitter [指名打者] is simple enough: the first two characters are pronounced shimei and mean designated and the last two symbols are dasha and stand for batter. David Ortiz demolished Jose Arredondo’s eight inning offering, sending it over the center field wall and into the clutches of a lucky fan in the bleachers. The monumental shot was his 270th home run as a designated hitter, surpassing Frank Thomas as the all-time home run leader for DHs. It was a tempestuous season for Ortiz with his first-half stagnation and the leak of his name as a player on the 2003 survey test. This achievement is dubious in the eyes of some, but to me it is still an exceptional accomplishment.|
Who could have predicted that Daisuke Matsuzaka would return with a quality start: 6 innings pitched, 3 hits, no runs, 3 walks, and 5 strikeouts. The SoSH game thread didn’t. I prepared myself for a game similar to Paul Byrd’s start against the White Sox back on September 4 but, surprisingly, Matsuzaka with a sharpness unseen since last season.
Perhaps like David Ortiz, the Red Sox starter had to work himself out of a prolonged slump. Unlike hitters, however, pitchers can’t work out their quirks on the mound every fifth day. Matsuzaka was effectively banished from the majors since June. He had a very Japanese approach to the situation, saying, “On the road back I’ve been a burden on my teammates more than anything and I feel that I owe them.”
The Japanese concept of giri laced Matsuzaka’s words. The word is usually translated as duty or obligation, but is stronger than these notions compared to American culture. Matsuzaka’s recovery of his former glory would be the ideal parable for young Japanese ball players: when he was disobeying his superiors he did poorly and now that he is abiding by their instructions he is doing well.
Had Matsuzaka and the Red Sox gotten pummeled by the Angels (our likely opponents in the ALDS), I was prepared to write about how different the postseason is from the regular season. But since Boston won, obviously the series opener is an augury of another successful ALDS against the Angels.