Has Daisuke Matsuzaka finally turned the page?

Let’s be honest, when the Red Sox posted a $50+ million ransom in order to secure the rights just to negotiate with this guy, and then signed him to a six-year, $52 million contract, this was the type of outing we thought would be the rule, not the exception. We were told he had six or seven pitches he would throw for strikes, and that his control was impeccable. Yet, we have seldom seen that pitcher in a Red Sox uniform.

In three years, he has had eight outings in which he did not issue a walk… and three of those outings were in May, 2007. Between then and this evening there have been a grand total of four such outings.

Tonight he beat the Toronto Blue Jays, allowing just one run on three hits over seven innings. He did not walk a single batter, and he struck out nine in the game. During his three year tenure with the Sox, this is only the second outing of this quality that he has provided the team. On April 1, 2008, Dice-K beat the Oakland A’s (in Oakland), 2-1, allowing a run on two hits over 6.2 IP, walking no one, while striking out nine.

That is really the only outing that matches up by the numbers in terms of the number of base runners allowed… but tonight he lasted one out longer.

There have been other outings that were close, but only once previously in his Red Sox career had he allowed as few as three base runners in a game without walking a batter. In 2007, he had nine outings in which he allowed one run or less, but in only two of those outings did he allow as few as three base hits — he issued walks in both of those contests (3 BB on 6/16 vs SF; 1 BB on 6/27 vs SEA). In 2008, he pitched three games in which he allowed no runs while limiting the opposition to two hits, but on all three occasions he walked a pair of hitters (four baserunners in total). Last year he had one outing in which he allowed three hits… but he issued three walks in that contest.

There have been several more outings in which he allowed only two or three hits, but he issued as few as three and as many as eight walks in those outings. He has rarely had his “stuff” and “control” in the same game.

Has he finally turned a page? I wouldn’t bet on it; but, when he pitches like he did tonight he is about as good as any pitcher in the big leagues. Tonight was undeniably one of the best games of his career in the United States. His performance this evening may end up being something we look back on later this year and point to as being a turning point for this season.

The Red Sox took a 2-0 lead in the first when Marco Scutaro led off with a walk, took third on Dustin Pedroia’s ground-rule double, and scored on J.D. Drew’s groundout. Pedroia came in on Kevin Youkilis’ sacrifice fly. Jason Varitek’s sixth home run of the year made it 3-0 in the second inning.

They scored another run in the fourth inning, thanks to some shoddy defense by the Blue Jays and an RBI double by Darnell McDonald.

In the fifth inning, Drew reached on a bunt single and Youkilis walked. Shawn Camp replaced Eveland and walked Mike Lowell, loading the bases. Drew came in to score on a wild pitch. Varitek was then walked intentionally, reloading the bases. Youkilis scored on a Billy Hall forceout.

Toronto broke through in the sixth inning on doubles by John Buck and Fred Lewis.

After the game, Matsuzaka said: “After that tough beginning to the game last time, I tried to keep things simple and I thought that things improved. I just wanted to keep that going, so from my first pitch tonight I treated it as a continuation of the last game.”

Dana Eveland (3-2) gave up all of Boston’s runs in four-plus innings. He allowed five hits, issued four walks, and hit a batter.


Matsuzaka walked no batters for only the second time in his last 33 starts.


Josh Beckett is expected to miss Friday’s start because of back spasms.


The Red Sox won their third straight game and went two games over .500 for the first time this year.

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