Red Sox win, but lose Matsuzaka
Two innings into the game, Daniel Nava, who a few short years ago was laundering jerseys for the University of Santa Clara baseball team that had cut him, took Philadelphia Phillies starter Joe Blanton to the cleaners with a grand slam on the first major league pitch he saw.
That was the good news in a bittersweet day of baseball yesterday at Fenway.
Before the game, the Sox lost Daisuke Matsuzaka to a forearm strain while he was warming up in the bullpen, forcing Scott Atchison into an emergency start. Earlier, the team received news of the death of Felix Maldonado, one of the most beloved instructors in the organization, who succumbed to cancer at 72.
By the end of the day, the Sox were 10-2 winners over the Phillies. They now have to deal with the long-term ramifications of losing Matsuzaka, who was 5-2 with a 4.59 ERA and had a streak of 13 2/3 scoreless innings.
Matsuzaka had struck out 37 batters over his last eight starts and was 3-1 over his last four, posting a 1.98 ERA after missing the Sox’ first 23 games while on the disabled list.
Matsuzaka injured his right forearm while warming up in the bullpen, was immediately scratched from his start, and after being examined was placed on the 15-day disabled list. Atchison, who had been recalled from Pawtucket Friday to replace Joe Nelson (designated for assignment), began to warm up. The Sox pieced together a solid performance from five pitchers, and the offense stayed hot with 16 more hits, after producing 17 in a 12-2 win Friday night.
Matsuzaka spent most of last season on the DL, after two seasons in which he won a combined 33 games. He started this season on the 15-day DL because of a neck strain.
One bit of news that may ease the loss of Matsuzaka is the progress being made by Josh Beckett, who has been on the DL since May 19 with a lower back strain. Beckett threw from 30 feet yesterday with good results, but it would appear he is still a week or so away from a rehab assignment.
The switch-hitting Nava, who was hitting .294 with eight homers and 38 RBIs at Pawtucket, became the third call-up outfielder to spark the Sox this season. Darnell McDonald homered in his first game with the team, and Josh Reddick had a strong game last weekend in Baltimore.
Those contributions have helped with the injuries to Jacoby Ellsbury, who has missed most of the season with fractured ribs, and Mike Cameron, who has been in and out of the lineup with a lower abdominal strain.
The Sox’ offense has pulverized Phillies starters Jamie Moyer and Blanton the past two days for 22 hits and 18 runs over five innings. The Phillies had a long team meeting before the game but it didn’t seem to do any good, and probably won’t until the starting pitching improves.
The Sox’ assault yesterday started with five runs in the second inning as J.D. Drew’s solo homer to right cut the Phillies’ lead to 2-1.
Drew’s homer was followed by consecutive singles by Adrian Beltre, Jason Varitek (infield hit), and McDonald, before Nava became just the fourth major leaguer to hit a grand slam in his first at-bat. One of the other three is Jeremy Hermida (Aug. 31, 2006, with the Marlins).
Nava had the opportunity to make this one of the greatest performances by a rookie in major league history when he came to plate in the third inning with the bases again loaded — Drew (single), Varitek (walk), and McDonald (infield hit).
This time, Nava struck out on a half-swing, but Marco Scutaro followed with a two-run single and Dustin Pedroia added an RBI single.
Garbage time, much like Friday night, started early, and the Sox tacked on a pair of runs on a Drew double in the fourth and on a Varitek double-play grounder in the sixth.
Manager Terry Francona had told Nava before the game that it would be “the greatest day of your life,’’ and it was. Nava’s parents were in the stands.
Don Nava had his camcorder out as if he were recording his toddler’s first steps. But he was recording the first step of his son’s major league career.