If the boys (and girl) from the CBS’ Criminal Minds team were investigating Daisuke Matsusaka this morning, they would surely be flummoxed. You see, those behavioral experts compile profiles based on patterns. And coming into last night, Matsusaka’s pattern was clear …. Good game, bad game, good game, bad game, good game ……BAD GAME. But Monday, the pattern was broken as Dice K strung together his second good start in a row, this time throwing eight shutout innings at the Indians. With that in mind, is it possible that Dice K needs a new profile?
I wouldn’t go there just yet as Matsusaka’s two latest conquests – Oakland and Cleveland – rank 10th and 12th in AL scoring. So I am not prepared just yet to break out my crowbar and separate “inconsistent” and “Daisuke Matsusaka.” That being said, I am mildly encouraged by last night’s outing as Dice took advantage of a generous strike zone and completely shut down the Indians. His strike total was only “ok” and he may not have done a very good job getting first-pitch strikes, but Dice only walked two and scattered four singles. That is certainly an improvement over May 27th when he walked eight Royals and was done in the fifth inning.
With this solid start in his back pocket, Dice has fought his way back to respectability, lowering his ERA to under five and his WHIP to a rather solid 1.31. Next up for Dice is Philadelphia who Matsusaka almost no-hit on May 22nd. I wouldn’t bet on that again but at least with the pattern broken, you can’t simply count on a blowup either.
* David Ortiz is now colder than the S&P 500. Another miserable night for Ortiz on Monday and it concluded with one of those “ah fuck it” swings that smacked of frustration. As I said a couple days ago, you could see this coming and it all started that night Oakland pitcher Gio Gonzalez threw cold water on Ortiz confidence. Since that night, Ortiz is just 2-23 and he is now hitless in his last five games. With the Sox facing a lefty tonight, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Ortiz get the night off and if he is in the lineup, it may be in the five hole.
* There were plenty of ropes from the leadoff spot on Monday as Marco Scutaro was dialed in (three doubles) but the laser machine was back in the shop as Dustin Pedroia went 0-4 with runners in scoring position. Pedey just can’t get this thing started and moving forward.
* What is about compliments that these Sox can’t take? Every time I say something nice about one of these guys, they make me look like a jerk, and it’s usually pretty immediate. Wasn’t it just Sunday that I said Daniel Bard was working himself in the “best reliever in the AL” conversation? Well, last night, Bard goes out and gives up a couple of hits, including one 400-footer to left-center. I realize that it was a low pressure situation and those are largely inadmissible, but it didn’t exactly lend credence to my claim of Bardian Exceptionalism.
* On the other hand, I said about six weeks back that I would take the other side for anyone who wanted to bet Bill hall would be on the team after Memorial Day. Well, here we are on June 8 and Hall is not only on the team, but he sports an OPS over .800. I am now resigned to the fact that my June “puts” on Hall will expire worthless. He hasn’t been great but he has been serviceable at a time when the Sox really needed some help. Given this compliment, Hall is probably a lock to go 0-4 tonight against lefty David Huff.
* Victor Martinez has quietly – very quietly – got his throwing numbers back in order. By nailing Jason Donald last night, Martinez has now thrown out 11 of 54 base stealers. Twenty percent isn’t going to get you a gold glove but it is a huge improvement from where Martinez was five weeks ago and suddenly, that stretch from first to second is no longer called the “green light expressway” when Victor is catching. I realize this was the wrong compliment to pay on the morning of a Wakefield appearance.
* So the word is Jacoby Ellsbury now wants another opinion on his tender ribs. It’s now been eight weeks since the injury happened and given the fact that Francona says “Ellsbury is not on the threshold of playing,” the bet here is Ellsbury will be out until at least June 21. That timetable will make this a ten-week injury which is about the time it took Wes Welker to recover from a torn ACL.
* FARM REPORT : It was a nice night on the farm as Salem 3B Will Middlebrooks smacked a home run, Ryan Lavarnway had couple of knocks and Pawtucket prospect Ryan Kalish had two hits. But the star of the night was Felix Doubront who went up against Cincy uber-prospect Arnoldis Chapman and scored a knockout. Doubront went five, giving up a run on five hits and striking out five. He has now tossed 16.2 innings at AAA and surrendered just two earned runs. As I said after Doubront’s last start, it is still too early to think about bringing Doubront up to Boston but this piece of fruit looks like it’s ripening quickly and if Wakefield continues to fail, Felix may become the answer ….. sooner than I thought.
* So Wakefield goes tonight against a UCLA lefty by the name of David Huff. I’m not sure Wake is pitching for his spot in the rotation quite yet but we are getting close to that time. A third bad start and the drumbeat for change will get much louder.