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He walked away with the win

Eight BBs in 5 innings can't beat Matsuzaka

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Amalie Benjamin
Globe Staff / May 6, 2008

DETROIT - This, in the end, is nothing new for Daisuke Matsuzaka. Walking far too many batters, allowing far fewer hits than would seem possible, coming out the winner. It's not exactly what the Red Sox are looking for from a No. 2 starter, as one day those wins may turn into losses.

"I don't know that we want to keep explaining that," manager Terry Francona said of the high walk and low hit totals in last night's 6-3 win over the Tigers. "If that happens a lot, we'll be sitting in [the manager's office] going, 'Well, that's why we lost.'

"That's not the recipe, the formula. He didn't give in, he just kept plugging away. And that's what he had to do, or give up runs."

So far, Matsuzaka has given up 22 hits and 27 walks this season. That's in 169 plate appearances.

For last night's outing, which included eight walks in five innings, the righthander might have had an excuse; Matsuzaka, who improved to 5-0, is coming off a bout with the flu.

Though he rarely relies on those sorts of crutches, Matsuzaka did say, "Well, I wouldn't say that I'm at 100 percent, but it's not so bad that I can't pitch."

He gave up just two hits and one earned run, striking out one and walking those eight. It wasn't an unprecedented feat for him; in a 10-inning complete game against the Nippon Ham Fighters, Matsuzaka gave up eight walks. He won that game, too.

"I've had a tendency to do that for a long time, so I think maybe I'm just able to draw upon my experience there," Matsuzaka said, with a laugh. "But I guess you could say that I haven't really progressed much as a pitcher."

He wasn't the only pitcher to struggle with command. After a stellar 1-2-3 sixth inning, Craig Hansen walked two in the seventh, one of which scored. That brought the Red Sox to an even 10 for the game, the most they have walked since issuing 13 free passes Aug. 19, 2006, a game in which Josh Beckett alone walked nine.

Matsuzaka also became the second major league pitcher this season to walk eight, following the Indians' Fausto Carmona, who had that many against Oakland April 12 in 3 2/3 innings.

But just two of the Tiger walks came around to score. Gary Sheffield's fourth-inning walk (aided by a rare walk to Ivan Rodriguez and a Curtis Granderson RBI single) and Miguel Cabrera's seventh-inning base on balls (walk to Sheffield, two-run single by pinch hitter Marcus Thames) came across the plate.

"There's not too many outings where you walk that many and find a way to get through it," Francona said. "But he did. He still physically isn't where he wants to be after that bout with illness, and he felt it.

"He's just weak, but he pitched with a lot of heart. Fortunately he didn't give up a lot of hits, cause that's a ton of walks."

Maybe he should feel better in the presence of compatriots in bases on balls. According to statistician Chuck Waseleski, back in 1993, with the Pirates, Tim Wakefield won games in which he walked nine and 10 batters. Though it's safe to say Matsuzaka's pitches were dancing far less than Wakefield's knucklers.

"My command was the biggest problem today," Matsuzaka said. "But even though I couldn't throw a lot of strikes, my fastball wasn't that bad, and I think [Jason] Varitek did a nice job of mixing it up enough that it worked out in the end.

"I think it had to do mostly with technical things. Physically I was way off today. The stadium itself didn't really have an effect, but my feeling on the ball was off entirely today."

Amalie Benjamin can be reached at abenjamin@globe.com

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