Extra Bases

Matsuzaka earns some respect


Every no-hitter, it seems, is helped along by one or two great defensive plays. The Red Sox made five tonight including one by Daisuke Matsuzaka himself in the seventh inning when he speared a line drive off the bat of Jayson Werth.

Even Phillies manager Charlie Manuel figured Matsuzaka would get his no-no when Adrian Beltre made a ridiculous catch of a low line drive in the eighth inning to steal a sure hit away from Carlos Ruiz.

(By the way, enough with the Betre bashing. The guy is a magician out there and is hitting .321 with 24 RBI.)

“Tonight, with the defense behind me, a lot of hard-hit balls were turned into outs and they made a lot of tough plays,” Matsuzaka said via interpreter Masa Hoshino. “So I thought to myself, ‘Maybe if it’s going to happen, it’s going to be a night like this.’ But it didn’t work out.”

The next batter, Juan Castro, broke his bat and hit a little flare that just managed to get over the head of Marco Scutaro.

That Matsuzaka nearly threw a no-hitter will be the focus of the coverage tomorrow, and it should be. But for the Red Sox, the long-term implications are that this guy can still be something special. Dice-K is an easy target because of his contract and the myriad injuries he has suffered the last two seasons. But this is still a guy who won 33 games his first two seasons in the majors.

“You hope this boosts his confidence,” Jacoby Ellsbury said. “He was great tonight.”

Said David Ortiz: “Unbelievable. His fastball was there; his breaking pitches were there. To pitch a game like that against these guys, that’s not an easy thing to do.”

The Sox have won four of five and at 23-21 continue to hang around. They’re 3.5 games out of the wild card as the struggling Yankees lost again. By the time the Celtics are done playing, New England may have something else to hold its attention.

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