SAN DIEGO -- With the bases loaded and the out column still reading "0" on the scoreboard last night, first glance might have told the denizens of Red Sox Nation who shuttled the length of the country -- sprinkled in with the 44,405 who made up the third-largest crowd ever at Petco Park -- that their evening would be spent watching Greg Maddux's 340th win, rather than Daisuke Matsuzaka's encore to his sparkling shutout work against the Giants last Saturday.
That, of course, would be wrong.
Though Matsuzaka did allow a run in that tenuous first-inning situation, he would allow no more in his six innings of edge-of-the-seat pitching (five walks) that saw nine Padres left on base. Meanwhile, the Red Sox learned that Petco did not receive the pitcher's park label for no reason. Note that of the 14 hits between the teams, 13 were singles.
"It was a well-pitched game all around on both sides," said Sox manager Terry Francona. "It looked like the game was almost decided in the first inning, and then [Matsuzaka] just stopped them flat right there."
But Matsuzaka could not do it all. So, Javier Lopez, Manny Delcarmen, Hideki Okajima, and Jonathan Papelbon, a group whose combined major league service time registers as less than a blink to Maddux -- took care of the final nine outs and preserved the 2-1 win for Matsuzaka. Papelbon registered his 17th save of the season.
Sure, his 1982 edition Padres jersey might have made Maddux feel at home -- though, no, he was not actually pitching in the majors back then, his debut coming in 1986 -- but Matsuzaka had made Petco a comfortable place of his own, pitching Japan to the World Baseball Classic title in March 2006.
So, while Maddux had major league history on his side as he attempted to add win No. 340 to his résumé, Matsuzaka had history here, one of the few places in the US where he can make that claim.
Still, it didn't start well for the pitcher whose last start was his best with the Red Sox. Because while Maddux, one of the all-time greats in terms of control, dominated within the strike zone, Matsuzaka had far more trouble with his command.
Though he settled down after a near implosion -- and impressive extrication -- Matsuzaka walked the first three batters of the game. Going to 3-and-2 counts on Marcus Giles, Jose Cruz, and Adrian Gonzalez, Matsuzaka followed his bout of wildness with a return to form that left the Padres scoring just one, on a one-out single by Michael Barrett.
It helped that the Red Sox sent some of those well-placed pitches back at Maddux, including three straight singles to center (and four total) in the fourth inning, which produced two runs, Dustin Pedroia and Manny Ramírez scoring on hits by Kevin Youkilis and Jason Varitek.
But Julio Lugo, mired in a long slump, struck out to end the inning, standing at the plate looking lost and confused, perhaps armed with the knowledge that the at-bat left him below the Mendoza line (.199).
"Maddux has been doing this a long time," said Francona. "We just got some balls up a little and got them through the infield. It was enough."
After throwing 32 pitches in the first inning, Matsuzaka came back with 1-2-3 frames in the second and fourth -- he allowed a two-out walk and single in the third -- though he had thrown 101 pitches through five. He left with a 2-1 lead after the sixth, having thrown 126 pitches, his second most of the season.
Despite nine strikeouts, Matsuzaka also allowed quite a few base runners, but pitched well enough that the Padres stranded nine while he was in the game, including on first and third when Matsuzaka struck out Marcus Giles swinging with a 94-mile-per-hour fastball to end the sixth.
"He didn't look tired to me," Francona said of Matsuzaka. "He actually wanted to stay in there. I had to explain to him that he's not a real good hitter."