“I knew very well that this was a critical game as far as our chances of advancing to the playoffs. So to allow what happened to happen so early in the game, I can really only apologize to my teammates and my fans …. On a day like today, I didn’t have any life or bite or command on my pitches. I’m sure [catcher Victor Martinez] felt there wasn’t anything he could try and do either.”
Wait a second. Aren’t the Japanese allergic to apologies? Haven’t they only reluctantly expressed sorrow for starting World War II, killing millions of conquered peoples, stealing American trade secrets, and giving us Godzilla versus Mothra? It’s a cultural thing, right? So what the hell was Daisuke Matsuzaka doing apologizing for last night’s pitiful effort? Isn’t that just un-Japanese?
Apology aside, it seems that the wheels have fallen off Daisuke’s proverbial Tonka truck. Heading into last night, opponents had scored four earned runs off Matsuzaka in four straight games. Last night, Tampa wasn’t interested in running with the crowd so they doubled down and put up an eight spot. The bulk of the damage came in the fourth where the Rays amassed this string of events: walk, walk, “bad fielding decision,” walk, strikeout, single, double, strikeout, pop out. That was good for four runs – mostly self-inflicted – and two more came in the fifth when Matsuzaka gave up a bomb to Jason Bartlett. All told, it was one of those nights where Matsuzaka couldn’t throw his fastball for a strike and when that happens, bad things follow.
What is confusing here is that just a month ago, Daisuke looked like a solid middle-of-the-rotation- starter. After all, he was wrapping up a twelve game stretch, beginning May 22nd, where he limited opposing teams to just 24 earned runs over 76 innings (2.84 ERA). Yeah, four of these starts were against Cleveland, Seattle and Oakland but if we don’t kill CC Sabathia for his gamelog, why should be deduct points here?
Unfortunately, when the competition improved, Daisuke headed in the other direction. Here are the numbers: in his five most recent starts, Matsuzaka’s ERA is 7.02 and opponents are slugging a robust .512. Now at times, Daisuke has pitched a bit better than those numbers suggest but the fact of the matter is Matsuzaka’s summer run now looks pretty illusory. And unless he is facing an AL bottom feeder, Matsuzaka seems prone to coughing up leads and now apologies.
POINTS OF INTEREST:
* I think I am going to take tonight off. It will be just my fourth off-night of the year but I can’t stomach the thought of watching Tim Wakefield try to get in the way of a track meet.
* It was a ridiculous idea to have Clay Buchholz pitch today on three days rest and the upshot of letting Wakefield go instead is that Buck will now get a start at Oakland and a start at Seattle. Those are nice outings to have if one is hoping to chase down the CYA.
*Six times in three days, Boston pitching has walked in a run. That shouldn’t happen six times in a month.
* Peter Abraham of the Globe touched on something last night that I have noticed for months: the Sox pitching staff can’t field their position. Last night’s error by Richardson was the 20th made by a Boston pitcher this season and that leads the AL. Throw in the handful of times that the Sox have botched a sacrifice at third – as Daisuke did last night – and you get a staff that continually shoots itself in the foot.
Scratch Dustin Richardson off the list of 2011 bullpen candidates. This guy has only faced fifty-seven batters this season so how is it possible that I hate him so much? Usually, I reserve this level of disgust for guys like Wakefield or Mike Timlin or MDC. A couple nice numbers on D-Rich …. Of his last 28 pitches, only eleven have been strikes. And of the last five batters he has faced, four have walked.
Steve Buckley from the Herald was on WEEI yesterday bitching about Lars Anderson’s promotion and the gist of the complaint was Anderson hadn’t done anything to justify this cup of big-league coffee. To that I say …. What have Yamaico Navarro, Michael Bowden and Robert Coello done to deserve their $2400/day promotions? Steve is obviously pained that Anderson didn’t blow up after his great 2008 season but if he had spent some time following Anderson this year, he would have noticed that The Viking turned in a nice second half that certainly merited a September bump.
* With Scutaro broken and hoping to play in 2011 without the benefit of shoulder surgery, he has to be considered a big question mark at this point. So isn’t it incumbent on the Sox to spend the balance of the year finding out if Lowrie can play every day and open up as the starting shortstop next season?