DENVER - There were other gifts, golf clubs and books and assorted Boston-themed baubles. But when Red Sox owners met with Daisuke Matsuzaka for the first time last December at owner Tom Werner's house in Pacific Palisades, Calif., the captivating moment came when Werner walked into the room carrying a replica of the 2004 World Series trophy.
"Last year when I saw the trophy, I felt that it was very beautiful and I was very moved," Matsuzaka said yesterday. "At that point, a lot of things were still in the air, but I definitely wanted to hold that trophy in my own hands one day. As I said after I signed with the Red Sox in the press conference, I wanted to play my small part in getting us to the championship, and if others could think that I played my small part to get us here, then I would be very satisfied and grateful. And I feel the same way about this series; I just want to play my small part and help the team win."
Matsuzaka did his part to advance the Sox to the World Series last Sunday night, when he gave the team five good innings (6 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 3 K) in an 11-2 win over the Cleveland Indians in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series. Now he is in a position to apply a death grip on the trophy by beating the Rockies tonight; a win would give the Sox a 3-0 lead over the Rockies, novices to this World Series business.
They're also new to Matsuzaka, of course, except for second baseman Kazuo Matsui, who was his teammate in Japan on the Seibu Lions. They had dinner together just before the season, and now they are here, adversaries on the biggest stage upon which either player has strode.
"He was always somebody that I respected tremendously," Matsuzaka said, "and he was someone who I always wanted to follow in his footsteps."
They're in commandMatsui has just an infield hit in eight at-bats against the Sox, after delivering big hits, including a grand slam, for the Rockies in the National League playoffs. But he is hardly alone among Colorado hitters having a tough time against Sox pitchers.
In addition to holding the Rockies to a run in each of the first two games, the Sox have recorded 12 and 10 strikeouts, respectively. Reaching double digits is something they'd done just twice in 64 previous Series games.
The Rockies had no chance against Josh Beckett in Game 1; Thursday night, they were shut down by Curt Schilling, Hideki Okajima, and Jonathan Papelbon.
"Between the three, they were above 70 percent in strikes," pitching coach John Farrell said. "They commanded the zone, threw to both sides of the plate, just kept us from being predictable. One of the key points to me was how Jason [Varitek] handled each of the three pitchers. The game-calling he showed, knowing what each pitcher was capable of, no one can overlook his impact on pitchers."
Okajima retired all seven batters he faced, throwing 20 of 28 pitches for strikes while matching his longest outing of the season, against the Tigers just before the All-Star break.
"I can remember [manager Terry Francona] and I having a conversation in Detroit," Farrell said. "We felt there might be a situation in the postseason where we might want to get two-plus innings out of him."
What made Okajima so effective against the Rockies?
"For any pitcher, it comes down to fastball command," Farrell said. "Not only getting ahead in counts, but putting hitters away. I go back to the 2-and-2 fastball he threw to [Ryan] Spilborghs down and in for strike three.
"He almost had the ability to change his style. Certain hitters he pitched backwards - offspeed early, finish with fastballs. Then he'd do just the opposite with others. The fact he was able to throw all three of his pitches for strikes allowed Jason to orchestrate any plan he wanted against a given guy."
Wakefield warms upTim Wakefield said he continues to play catch - "just in case" - even though he is not on the World Series roster. Shortly after the Series, Wakefield anticipates undergoing an arthrogram, in which a dye will be injected into his right shoulder and pictures taken to determine the extent of the damage. An earlier MRI, Wakefield said, did not show structural damage. But the area was severely inflamed, and Wakefield said the doctors had mentioned the possibility of a shoulder impingement, one reason he was advised to shut it down. At this stage, he said, he does not expect surgery. He also said he doesn't believe his condition will have an impact on the team's decision whether to exercise its $4 million option for him next season . . . Once again, an "optional" workout drew nearly the whole Sox roster to Coors Field yesterday. Eric Gagné, Coco Crisp, J.D. Drew, Manny Delcarmen, and Schilling were not present . . . Mike Lowell was asked if he'd heard any of the exotic suggestions about how Francona should jigger his lineup to keep Lowell, Kevin Youkilis, and David Ortiz in the lineup, including one that had Lowell playing second base. "I would like to play instead of [Dustin] Pedroia so I could rag on him," Lowell said. "But I don't think they're going to move around four or five positions." Lowell deflected questions about his contract status, and a published report in which general manager Theo Epstein expressed optimism that Lowell would be re-signed, saying, "I have no sense of it. I haven't talked to my agent. I honestly don't care to talk about it. It's not on my mind; it's not even an issue at this time." . . . World Series ratings for Game 2 dropped despite a new television schedule this year. The Red Sox' 2-1 victory Thursday night got an 11.1 rating and 18 share, Fox said yesterday. That's down 4 percent from the 11.6/18 for Detroit's 3-1 win over St. Louis in Game 2 last year. The rating was up 7 percent from the Thursday night game in last year's World Series. The two-game average of 10.8/18 is up 10 percent over the 9.8/17 for the first two games last year. Game 2 drew a 51.2/71 in Boston and a 40.6/57 in Denver.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.