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Entries from Empyreal Environs tagged with “Matsuzaka”


I had this game open on a tab in browser since last October. MLB’s annoying autoplay feature made it so whenever the page loaded I would hear Michael Kay throwing it to Meredith Marakovits for the Yankees’ celebration. Even that wasn’t enough to make me put fingers to keyboard to attempt to summarize this game, a microcosm of the disappointment of this season. Thankfully the Yankees were ineffective in the postseason, outlasting the Baltimore Orioles 3-2 in the ALDS before getting swept by the Tigers in the ALCS. This was Bobby Valentine’s last game as Red Sox skipper. At one point I thought that Valentine’s experience in Japan and ability to speak the language would help Daisuke Matsuzaka attain his former levels of success. Now neither have jobs in the majors, although Matsuzaka may find his way to the big leagues and be reunited with his former manager, Terry Francona. The Indians, along with the rest of the world, made a “Harlem Shake” video. This offseason the Red Sox did their best to shake off 2012’s woes with extensive shifts off and on the field. It will take more than a meme to bring meaning back to this team. Game...

Dyson Sphere

Daisuke Matsuzaka’s second return to the mound this season was a remarkable rebound: 7 innings pitched, 5 hits, 1 earned run, 2 walks, and 6 strikeouts. While it may be easier to stifle the struggling Royals than the Nationals, who Matsuzaka faced in his season debut, at this point Red Sox Nation will take any competent pitching performance as a positive. Leadoff hitter Jarred Dyson is your prototypical center fielder: lithe, agile, fast. Due to his speed he seems to take risky routes to fly balls but in the first inning Dyson’s trajectory was as accurate as the Jet Propulsion Lab’s programming of Curiosity rover’s landing. Dustin Pedroia thought he started the laser show early when smacked the ball on a line to dead center. Dyson dashed under the ball and ran with confidence to the wall. He used the wall’s padding to add to his height and steady his position at his apex. If Mike Trout hadn’t made a spectacular grab of J.J. Hardy’s fly ball Dyson would have made the catch of season by a center fielder. The snare was so shocking Wally was caught with his head off. Game 129: August 27, 2012 Kansas City Royals56-71 1...

Pain in the Neck

Daisuke Matsuzaka tallied only three outs even though he faced nine batters. Two batters, Josh Reddick and Brandon Moss, homered. Unsurprisingly, the pitcher ended up on the disabled list. The stated injury was a strained right trapezius, the muscle that extends from the neck to the shoulder. Mauro Gomez was called up to replace the ailing hurler. Reddick was part of the package sent to Oakland for Andrew Bailey and Ryan Sweeney this past offseason. Moss was part of the three-way deal between the Dodgers, the Pirates, and the Red Sox in which Manny Ramirez went to Los Angeles and Jason Bay came to Fenway. At least Coco Crisp kept it down to a dull roar by going 0-3 with a base on balls. Game 80: July 2, 2012 Boston Red Sox42-38 1 L: Daisuke Matsuzaka (0-3) 2B: Daniel Nava (16) Oakland Athletics39-42 6 W: Jarrod Parker (5-3) 2B: Seth Smith (13)HR: Josh Reddick (19), Brandon Moss (9)...

Yank Aaron

Aaron Laffey hadn’t started a major league game since June of 2010, when he was pressed into the starter’s role for the Cleveland Indians. My friend and I were talking about Laffey’s paltry major league resume and laughed about how the Red Sox lineup would pummel him. But then I remembered: this is exactly the sort of less than replacement level player that somehow shows up Boston from time to time. Sure enough, Laffey lasted six innings, allowed only three hits, walked a pair of batters, and struck out two extremely hot hitters, Cody Ross and Will Middlebrooks. Daisuke Matsuzaka had a laborious 24-pitch first inning. Brett Lawrie led off with a liner starched to center. Colby Rasmus beat out Mike Aviles’s throw to first and Lawrie advanced to third on the play. Matsuzaka battled against Jose Bautista and induced a pop out to his backstop. Rather than wait around for his pitch Edwin Encarnacion swung at the first he saw and plated Lawrie with a single to third. Middlebrooks rushed his throw to first and sent the ball towards the tarp, which allowed the both runners to get into scoring position. But then Matsuzaka had Kelly Johnson fly out...

Everyday I’m Hustling

The Marlins jumped to an early three-run lead when Daisuke Matsuzaka allowed a smattering of singles and steals in the first. He settled down to retire 14 Marlins in a row. Cody Ross led the fourth off by getting hit by a pitch, but replay showed it was a call as bogus as all the foul calls against any player that comes within breathing distance of LeBron James. Carlos Zambrano figured he’d get his money’s worth and Jarrod Saltalamacchia took the ball off his tricep. Will Middlebrooks drove in Ross with a line drive single to right. Saltalamacchia advanced on Ryan Kalish’s ground out and scored on Mike Aviles’s fly ball to center. Adrian Gonzalez carried the momentum into the fifth with a leadoff base on balls. David Ortiz flied out to left but Ross singled to the same area. Saltalamacchia could have given up when he tapped the ball to second baseman Omar Infante but turned on the turbo with Gonzalez in scoring position. The catcher beat out Jose Reyes’s throw to first with pure hustle, so instead of the inning-ending out there were runners at the corners with two down. Middlebrooks continued his Wally Pipp-ment of Kevin Youkilis...

The Battle of Who Could Suck Less

Who sucked less? Daisuke Matsuzaka (6 innings, 4 hits, 3 earned runs, 3 walks, 3 strikeouts; as a batter 0-2 with a strikeout and 2 left on base) versus Ryan Dempster (7 innings, 4 hits, 0 runs, 2 walks, 3 strikeouts; as a batter 2-2 with a triple and a run scored): Dempster Red Sox (5-35 with 3 walks and 23 left on base) hitters versus Cubs hitters (4-27 with 2 walks and 10 left on base): Cubs Red Sox defense versus Cubs defense: Cubs. The Cubbies may have had three errors but none of them led to a score. Adrian Gonzalez misjudged Dempster’s fly ball in the bottom of the second and the pitcher scored. Denis Savard singing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” versus audience: audience Jerry Remy and Jenny Dell versus Wrigley Field security: Remy and Dell, once the were finally let in Game 64: June 15, 2012 Boston Red Sox31-33 0 L: Daisuke Matsuzaka (0-2) No extra base hits Chicago Cubs22-42 3 W: Ryan Dempster (3-3)H: James Russell (5)S: Carlos Marmol (3) 2B: Steve Clevenger (8)3B: Ryan Dempster (1)...

Off the Wall

It was hard for the Red Sox to get the bats warmed up on a raw night like tonight although Orioles had no problems squaring up on Daisuke Matsuzaka. Brian Roberts’s liner off Matsuzaka’s chest to start the game may have thrown the pitcher off his game; he departed the mound after four and one-third innings with seven walks and two strikeouts under his belt and two runners on base. Scott Atchison, summoned from Pawtucket in the wake of John Lackey being placed on the 15-day disabled list due to a right elbow strain, allowed both inherited runners to score. Looking up at a six-run deficit the Red Sox batters didn’t chip away but rather roared back in the bottom of the sixth. For just the fourth time this season the squad batted around. J.D. Drew started the inning with a line drive to Luke Scott, who made an error that allowed Drew to take second. Scott was probably obsessed to the point of distraction about requesting certificates of live birth for people whose origins he found questionable. In the sixth inning rally Jed Lowrie and Kevin Youkilis doubled while Drew, Jason Varitek, and Adrian Gonzalez singled. Throw in Carl...

Feliz Cumpleaños

Twenty-nine years ago Adrian Gonzalez was born in San Diego, California. He shares the same birth city as a southpaw slugger of some repute in these parts, Ted Williams. The Red Sox first baseman has at last gotten into the habit of taking advantage of his easy opposite field stroke and homered off the stanchion in the bottom of the fifth. He hit his first opposite field four-bagger in the first game of the series. Dennis Eckersley admired the swing and one of the NESN cameramen caught Ron Gardenhire imitating the effortless motion. Perhaps the corner infielder will leave a legacy with the Red Sox reminiscent of the Splendid Splinter’s; even if he attained a fraction of Williams’s achievements Gonzalez may end up one of the team’s best players. Carl Crawford, inheritor of Williams’s legacy in left, is an altogether different type of lefty from Gonzalez and Williams. Crawford swipes rapidly from an open stance without as much load as Gonzalez, which means he has to generate power by the rotation of his upper body. Gonzalez starts from a balanced, closed stance and propagates his power from his legs, up through his core, and finally his upper body. It’s unlikely...

Cameron’s Latest Epic

Unlike James Cameron, Mike Cameron didn’t need $2.9 million in cameras to create breathtaking action scenes. The outfielder’s first home run curved around Pesky’s Pole in the second inning to halve the visitors’ lead. His second homer was a blast into the Monster seats to lead off the fourth inning. The two circuit clouts sandwiched a two-run inning sparked by Adrian Gonzalez’s ground ball single up the middle. Jacoby Ellsbury easily advanced from first to third on the grounder. It was the only time the pair were on the basepaths together, breaking their four-game doubles streak. Kevin Youkilis’s sharply diving liner to left fooled Milton Bradley and plated Ellsbury for the game-tying run. David Ortiz followed with a skipping single through the shift to drive in Youkilis. With the culinary expertise of Tony Bourdain and the trenchant wit of Dorothy Parker, Heidi Watney continued her gastronomic journey through the concession stands of ballparks across the country. She tasted two sandwich offerings, Fenway’s Turkey Gobbler and the Monster Roast Beef. “Mmm,” she keenly observed. “I like the gobbler because it’s like Thanksgiving in one bite.” Fans can vote for their favorite; the winning sandwich will remain on the menu for the...

As Advertised

Daisuke Matsuzaka could have had a no-hitter last night. Alberto Callaspo, the last out of Jon Lester’s no-hitter against the Royals on May 19, 2008, scorched a comebacker right at Matsuzaka’s head in the second inning. The starter narrowly avoided the baseball and had the presence of mind to try to catch it with his glove hand. The ball deflected to Jed Lowrie who, as amazing as he is, couldn’t get to Adrian Gonzalez’s glove in time. It was the only hit Matsuzaka surrendered in his eight-inning outing. Thus Callaspo is a footnote in two superb Red Sox pitching performances. After his dismal April 11 start it seemed unlikely that Matsuzaka could pitch a quality start let alone live up to his pricey posting fee and contract. But his last two outings were comparable to Pedro Martinez. Matsuzaka is the first Boston pitcher since Martinez in 2002 to pitch consecutive shutouts of seven innings or more. The two newest batters contributed to the visitors’ run total. From the eighth slot Carl Crawford knocked in the first run of the game in the second inning. His liner up the middle kicked off Erick Aybar’s glove, allowing Lowrie to score. Crawford also...

Lowrie’s Seasoned Salt

My mom always had a jar of Lawry’s Seasoned Salt in the cupboard to quickly add zest to hamburgers or pork chops. In much the same way Jed Lowrie adds zing to the Red Sox; it’s not a coincidence that since Lowrie has been inserted in the lineup home cooking has been tastier. Today Lowrie put Sam Fuld to shame with a 4-for-5 outing, sprinkling in four runs batted with a splash of two-run home run for good measure. Terry Francona exploited Blue Jays starter Ricky Romero’s vulnerability to J.D. Drew by slotting the right fielder into the leadoff slot. The move also gave Carl Crawford some relief from the pressure of batting first. Drew led off the game with a triple that nearly cleared the center field wall and went on to score the first run of the game. Kevin Youkilis also just missed a homer when he hammered the ball of the top of the home bullpen’s wall in the bottom of the third but easily lofted the ball over the visitors’ bullpen wall in the sixth. His 114th home run further padded the lead to 7-0 and equally split his roundtrippers to 57 at Fenway and 57...

Bill Hall-elujah

As he didn’t have the impact of Adrian Beltre, Victor Martinez, or David Ortiz, Bill Hall’s possible departure from the Red Sox has not been widely discussed. If Boston exercises its club option Hall would be paid $9.25 million in 2011, a price tag that the front office may balk at since it has a cheaper infield option with Jed Lowrie. Hall played every position but first base and catcher, so his versatility will be missed. He pinch ran for Ortiz in the bottom of the eighth, giving him a close-up look at a miracle. With the bases loaded, Kevin Cash worked a walk to push the tying run across home. “And he shall reign for ever and ever!” Because backup catchers have a long shelf life; witness Cash’s line of .133 batting average, .224 on-base percentage, and .150 slugging percentage with the Red Sox. As ineffective as Cash was as a hitter so were A.J. Burnett and Daisuke Matsuzaka as starters. Neither pitcher made it past the sixth inning and both gave up four runs. Burnett surrendered more hits but Matsuzaka relinquished more base on balls. Mix inefficient pitchers with two of the more patient lineups in the majors...

Game Over, Man!

Shall we play a game? The movies quotations I made probably wouldn’t be recognized by 15 players on the 25-man roster; they weren’t cognizant when Aliens and WarGames were originally released. Which is fine, because it’s the far future where the Red Sox organization’s hopes lay rather than in October 2010. Lars Anderson still doesn’t have a major league hit but reached base on a walk in the eighth inning. He scored his first run as a Red Sox player on Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s double to left, which happened to be the catcher’s first RBI as a Red Sox player. If you let your mind wander forward a few years you can almost imagine them pairing up just like that but in a meaningful late summer contest. Perhaps Mike Lowell will be sending in signs as a bench coach by that time. That would surely be a more welcome sight them him hobbling around first base attempting to stop batted balls and errant throws that are within his fall-down range. Daisuke Matsuzaka will be participating in a wacky Japanese game show where one has to throw a ball over a five-sided shape 17 inches at its base. While wearing a penguin...

These Go to Eleven

Daisuke Matsuzaka and Victor Martinez seemed to be working together much better than they did during Matsuzaka’s streak of troubles. The battery fought through the Blue Jays’ three-run rally in the sixth to turn in two shutout, 1-2-3 innings, keeping the score knotted 4-4. Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon combined for three scoreless innings to get to the home half of the eleventh. Jed Lowrie, when not re-reading political theory classics introduced to him as a political science major at Stanford such as On the Social Contract or A Theory of Justice, hits game-winning home runs in extra-innings games in his spare time. No offense to Lowrie, but if you put him in street clothes he would be high on the list of least likely to be identified as a professional athlete. Like other political science majors, he should be bringing a senator some coffee or toiling away on an obscure blog. But Lowrie can swing a bat, throw leather around the diamond, and avoid slipping on home plate after launching a walk-off four-bagger and thereby suffering a season-ending injury, so he can avoid lackey tasks and carpal tunnel syndrome for a while. He’ll still have to deal with dirty...

Procrastination Nation

I’m like Bryce Harper over here, waiting until the last minute to get the deal done. Except when I finally write about Sunday’s disappointing loss I won’t get a five-year, $9.9 million deal. Instead of rolling in dough I get to savor the impressive strikeout total for Daisuke Matsuzaka (just one short of his season high of nine) that was for naught. He allowed four earned runs, but two of those were the result of Manny Delcarmen surrendering a three-run homer to Michael Young in the seventh inning. Beyond Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon the bullpen is a throng of rags and bones. Delcarmen has never been consistent and shows no signs of reversing the trend. Dustin Richardson has potential but requires polish. Michael Bowden, another young arm, is a starter being pressed into a relief role due to the relief corps’ injuries and ineffectiveness. Richardson and Bowden allowed an earned run each to push the score even further out of reach. While the major league team enjoyed an off day the Red Sox front office was abuzz. Before the August 15 signing deadline there was a flurry of activity with seven signings: Anthony Ranaudo, Brandon Workman, Sean Coyle, Garin...

Tipping America’s Hat

Daisuke Matsuzaka replaced his first-inning yips with a third-inning meltdown. After the offense had carved out a comfy 4-1 lead the pitcher walked the nine-hole and leadoff hitters back-to-back and then conceded a game-tying bomb to Travis Snider. Just as the Blue Jays were swinging from their heels so were the Red Sox. J.D. Drew crushed Ricky Romero’s 3-1 offering to the second deck. It landed into the waiting hands of a Toronto fan, a young man who was so excited by his snare he fist-pumped his own catch rather than booed his team falling behind in the score. Felix Doubront took over in the sixth with two men on and two out, even surviving a misplay by Jed Lowrie at second base to load the bases. Doubront could evade the bases-loaded jam but not the beguiling Jose Bautista, the inexplicable leader in homers in the American League. The outfielder re-knotted the game in the seventh with a leadoff shot off Doubront to left field. There might be something to the trading deadline mantra that players returning from injury would provide the boost the Red Sox needed, not a deal. It took Kevin Youkilis’s freak thumb injury to do it,...

The Time of the Decent Mariners

Every sub-500 team has that little morale-lifting series where they win or split a series against a powerhouse team. I suppose the injury-depleted Red Sox fill the role of the antagonist to the lovable underdog Mariners. The Seattle squad broke out of the shackles of disrepute and elevated themselves to the lofty heights of mediocrity, halving the four-game series with a timorous win. Not quite the way Jerry Remy would have liked his 3,000 game as a color analyst to play out. The Mariners were largely powerless against Daisuke Matsuzaka’s middling effort. Chone Figgins doubled off the left field stands and scored on Jose Lopez’s liner to shallow left in the third. It was the only run marring Matsuzaka’s six-inning line of four hits, five walks, and four strikeouts. The rest of the runs came on Hideki Okajima’s watch. The lefty inherited a baserunner from Daniel Bard and proceeded to allow five consecutive Mariners singles. Most egregious was the failure to get an out when Don Wakamatsu all but presented one on a silver platter by having Casey Kotchman bunt with men on first and second. Okajima fielded the ball and tried to toss to third twice before finally pivoting...

Sanshabontai [三者凡退]

Daisuke Matsuzaka had four sanshabontai, Japanese for 1-2-3 inning. The first two ideograms represents the concept of three people and the final two mean a baseball out. Oakland isn’t an offensive powerhouse by any means; the team is seventh in the American League in team batting average (.262), tenth in on-base percentage (.324), and twelfth in slugging percentage (.384). Still, it was heartening to see Matsuzaka have a completely clean first inning, permit only four baserunners (two hits and two walks), allow only a single run, and strike out six over 6⅔ innings. Boston’s pitching had to be on point as the lineup mustered a mere two runs against an extremely lucky Ben Sheets. In the fourth David Ortiz arced a sacrifice fly to center to plate Eric Patterson, who led off the frame with a triple against his former club. To avoid running on his still-gimpy leg, Adrian Beltre homered into the left field bleacher seats for the lead. There could have been more runs by the visitors if Kevin Youkilis didn’t violate a fundamental rule of baseball in the sixth. He worked the walk with two outs but then tried to reach third on Beltre’s single to right....

Halfway Closed

Daisuke Matsuzaka pitched for six solid innings with five whiffs and had just his third outing without a base on balls. Terry Francona tried to stay with his starter for seven but he surrendered a two-run homer to Aaron Hill. The Red Sox skipper tapped Daniel Bard to pitch two innings and the set-up man displayed why he should be in Anaheim with the other Red Sox all-stars. David Ortiz hit what would be the game-inning home run in the sixth inning. The 411-foot long shot landed in the second deck of the right field seats in Rogers Centre. That particular bank of seats was in sunlight because the retractable roof was stuck halfway closed (or halfway open depending on your point of view). Ortiz took his homer-hitting ways with him to Anaheim and beat Chris Young (not the pitcher, but you wouldn’t have guessed it by his single circuit clout), Vernon Wells, Nick Swisher, Matt Holliday, Miguel Cabrera, Corey Hart (how Chris Berman restrained himself from talking about wearing sunglasses at night or never surrendering is beyond me), and last but not least Hanley Ramirez. Watching Ramirez keep pace with Ortiz while recalling the myriad shortstops who went through...

Floundering in Florida

Many words that start with “f” come to mind when I think the opening game of this series against Boston’s foils in the American League East, the Tampa Bay Rays. Frustrating, as in how I feel when Daisuke Matsuzaka pitches. The starter had his typical first-inning fits: walking leadoff batter Ben Zobrist, allowing a double off the bat of Carl Crawford for the first run, then walking Matt Joyce after getting two outs. The fatiguing inning curtailed Matsuzaka’s outing such that he only lasted 5 innings with a forgettable line of 8 hits, 5 runs (4 earned), 4 walks, and 4 strikeouts. Fantastic, which is how Eric Patterson must have felt about his first two-homer game. The light-hitting utility man mustered the four-baggers against Rays ace Matt Garza and middle reliever Andy Sonnanstine. If Zobrist and Crawford hadn’t made web gems ahead of Patterson’s third-inning shot the Red Sox newcomer would have given his team the lead rather than the 1-1 tie. Kevin Youkilis, Adrian Beltre, and Bill Hall came through with more two-out mayhem, increasing the lead to 4-1. Frazzled, an apt encapsulation of Garza’s pitching performance, his worst since his 1⅓ inning outing against the Florida Marlins on...


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