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Big inning again is huge problem for Matsuzaka

Pitcher emotional in wake of outing

A sullen Daisuke Matsuzaka (9 hits, 7 runs in 4 2/3 innings), hangs his head as he stands with Victor Martinez before being relieved in the fifth inning. A sullen Daisuke Matsuzaka (9 hits, 7 runs in 4 2/3 innings), hangs his head as he stands with Victor Martinez before being relieved in the fifth inning. (Mike Segar/Reuters)
By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / May 18, 2010

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NEW YORK — The first question asked of Daisuke Matsuzaka, “Did you have trouble getting into a good rhythm at the start of the game?’’ was a fairly innocuous one given how poorly he pitched against the Yankees last night.

Matsuzaka paused for 30 seconds and appeared on the verge of tears before he answered.

“I think so,’’ he said. “I can’t even find the words.’’

Two reporters who have followed Matsuzaka since the start of his professional career in Japan said they never had witnessed such a display of emotion from the righthander, who allowed seven runs on nine hits and three walks in 4 2/3 innings.

That the Red Sox came back from a 6-1 deficit and took the lead before losing, 11-9, in the ninth inning could not mask what was another shaky start for Matsuzaka.

Matsuzaka had pitched well in his previous start, holding Toronto to one run over seven innings last Tuesday. But that changed in the bottom of the first as the Yankees scored five runs on five hits.

“I think my feel wasn’t that bad. Like I’ve said before, I have a lot of different pitches. But if I don’t use [them] properly, that can work against me at times. But I think my stuff itself wasn’t that bad,’’ Matsuzaka said via interpreter Masa Hoshino.

He said the biggest difference from his last outing was that he threw fewer fastballs.

But according to catcher Victor Martinez, Matsuzaka made that choice by repeatedly shaking him off.

“He’s the one,’’ Martinez said. “I’m just back there trying to help him go through the game. At the end, he’s the one who has the ball in his hand. I’m just behind the plate trying to help him. At the end, he’s the one who has the last word. I just put down suggestions and he can say yes or no.’’

Martinez said it wasn’t the first time Matsuzaka has shaken him off frequently during the game. But it was “maybe’’ the most he has done it.

Whichever player was responsible for the pitch selection made some bad decisions.

Derek Jeter drove Matsuzaka’s first pitch into left field for a single. Brett Gardner followed with a single to right before Mark Teixeira walked. Alex Rodriguez, who had been 1 for 16 against Matsuzaka, lined a two-run single into the gap in right.

Robinson Cano followed with an RBI single and Francisco Cervelli with an RBI double. A sacrifice fly by Marcus Thames gave the Yankees a 5-0 lead.

“There were some balls over the middle, from the first pitch of the game,’’ manager Terry Francona said. “Jeter whacks it. [Matsuzaka] was pitching out of the stretch after one pitch. We had our hands full in the first inning. They squared up a lot of balls.’’

Matsuzaka allowed another run in the second and another in the fifth and was finished after 105 pitches.

“I tried to pitch carefully but it was just too much of a drastic difference from my last start,’’ he said.

Matsuzaka has a 7.89 ERA in four starts since coming off the disabled list. Outside of the Toronto game, big innings derailed his other three starts.

Matsuzaka allowed six runs in the fifth inning against the Orioles May 1, four runs in the first inning against the Angels May 6, and five runs in the first last night.

Asked why he was prone to such big innings, Matsuzaka gave a curious answer.

“There’s one thing that I know for sure but I’m not quite ready to share that at this point,’’ he said.

Francona would like to hear a solution.

“It would certainly help our chance to win,’’ he said. “It’s not like he’s not trying. For whatever reason now, it’s been three out of four games that it’s been one big inning. It’s a hard way to win.’’

That is often the case for the Red Sox. Their starters have a 5.16 ERA, the second-worst in the American League behind Detroit.

Josh Beckett, whose ERA is 7.46, starts tonight.

Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @peteabe.

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