ARLINGTON, Texas -- It had a bit of Manny magic, and a bit of Manny mania, all wrapped up in a rain-prolonged, offense-riddled, walk-fueled, home run-stocked Red Sox win, played in the heart of Texas on a West Coast timeline.
Confused? Not surprising, after a 10-6 roller-coaster ride worthy of the nearby
From Manny Ramírez getting caught off second base on a grounder to the second baseman (unassisted), to Ramírez's jete in left field in the fourth inning that allowed a triple to Mark Teixeira, to Ramírez's tiebreaking single off the second base bag in the fifth, to Ramírez's lackadaisical catch of a fly ball in left in the sixth, the fingerprints of the slugger were indelible. But so, too, were those of Matsuzaka -- and while Ramírez's results were mixed, the Japanese pitcher's listed much more toward the negative.
"I felt very good coming out of my warm-up in the bullpen and I was looking forward to pitching this game, but all of a sudden, I didn't feel too well," said Matsuzaka in a statement. "I tried my best to take the team as deep into the game as possible to fulfill my responsibility as the starter. I regret that I ended up being a burden on my teammates today. I'll do my best to prepare for my next start."
Matsuzaka, who was seen dry-heaving in the concourse, felt the onset of nausea in the second inning. And an ashen-looking Matsuzaka left on the first bus after the game.
It was, in the end, another one-inning meltdown for Matsuzaka, this time the fourth, though it was contrasted by enough offense to give Matsuzaka (7-2) the win. He allowed five runs on seven hits and three walks, with six strikeouts.
"I think the fourth inning was more the result of not changing speeds as effectively as he had done," pitching coach John Farrell said. "They jumped on some fastballs early in the count."
Though Sox manager Terry Francona manufactured a quip when asked about how difficult it might be for Matsuzaka to endure a rain delay -- "My guess would be when it rains in Japan, it's probably the same as it rains here," he said -- it wasn't a scenario he was looking forward to.
Francona, of course, was hoping for an established start time for his valued import, who spent much of his time in the Japanese Leagues pitching in a dome. But that didn't happen.
Once the delays -- related to rain or the Sox' offense, as in their four-run second -- were over, Matsuzaka failed to continue his string of stellar starts, giving up a Ramírez-aided triple to Teixeira, a Sammy Sosa double, and a Frank Catalanotto home run to consecutive batters to open the fourth. The lead, which had been 4-0, dwindled to a run, and then it was gone, thanks to a two-run home run by Ramon Vazquez. As in No. 9 hitter, and onetime Red Sox property, Ramon Vazquez.
All the runs allowed by Matsuzaka came in one inning. Sound familiar?
But the lead was back in the hands of the Sox soon thereafter, as Kevin Youkilis (single, extending his career-best hitting streak to 17 games), David Ortiz (RBI double), and Ramírez (RBI single) provided two runs in the fifth. The Sox piled on four more in the sixth, highlighted by Jason Varitek's RBI triple, but that was hardly enough to end the concern over Matsuzaka's poor start -- or, rather, poor inning.
Having allowed just five runs (three of which came against the Braves in a blowout) over his last 24 innings, Matsuzaka had begun to get comfortable with his surroundings and American baseball in a way that was producing results worthy of his reputation and contract.
Before the game, Francona had praised his pitcher. Praised the strides he had made.
"He's comfortable," Francona said. "You can see it. You see it through his delivery. He's not forcing the issue. I think it's trust. He's taking the ball and throwing it where he wants to, not trying to make it go somewhere."
The same praise didn't apply after the game. Not that Matsuzaka's counterpart was better.
Four straight walks by Rangers starter Brandon McCarthy in the second were interrupted only by a Varitek sacrifice fly.
Fortunately for Dustin Pedroia -- and unfortunately for McCarthy and the Rangers -- the pitcher stayed close enough to the strike zone on a pitch to the second baseman (his 57th of the game, a workload that produced just four outs) to allow Pedroia to dump a hit into right-center for a single that scored two, making it 3-0. It became 4-0 when Sosa dropped a Julio Lugo's pop near the foul line in right, allowing Coco Crisp (who likely would have scored on a sacrifice fly, anyway) to come home. Pedroia was forced at second on the play. Youkilis's fly to the warning track in left finally ended McCarthy's inning at 47 pitches and four runs, and his evening at 66 pitches and two innings when he left with a blister on his right middle finger.
Amalie Benjamin can be reached at email@example.com.