Daisuke Matsuzaka retires 13 consecutive Athletics to acquire his first win of 2008

Daisuke Matsuzaka retires 13 consecutive Athletics to acquire his first win of 2008

(April 1, 2008) – The third meeting of the Red Sox and Athletics was very different than the first two. Game three of the 2008 started as a pitchers duel between Red Sox starter Daisuke Matsuzaka and Oakland starter Joe Blanton.

Through four innings, Matsuzaka and Blanton both had thrown just a mere 59 pitches and the only mistake was a Jack Cust solo homerun over the head of Manny Ramirez to give Oakland the 1-0 lead in the second inning. That is the way the game stayed until the fifth inning when first baseman Kevin Youkilis led off the inning with a single to right. When Oakland rightfielder Travis Buck made a catch for the ESPN highlight reel on catcher Jason Varitek and Blanton struck out center fielder Coco Crisp for the second time, it looked as if the fifth inning would come to a close.

Shortstop Julio Lugo kept the fifth inning alive with a hit off the foot of Blanton moving Youkilis up to second. With two outs in the fifth inning, this is where Blanton self-destructed. Rookie right fielder Jacoby Ellsbury stepped to the plate in the fifth inning for the third time and drove in Boston’s first run of the game with a line drive into right field. After Dustin Pedroia walked, it gave David Ortiz, who is still searching for his first hit of the season, a chance to drive in a couple runs. But Ortiz grounded out to the first base man Daric Barton for the final out of the inning.

In his second start of the season, Matsuzaka was on his game going 7 2/3 innings, striking out nine Oakland hitters while allowing just the one run on Cust’s homerun, before being replaced by Hideki Okajima. After striking out center fielder Ryan Sweeney in the third, Matsuzaka went on to retire the next 12 Athletics, seven of them on strike outs. On the side of the diamond, Blanton never recovered from the turbulent fifth inning and gave up a lead-off triple to Youkilis who then would score on a Varitek RBI double. Reliever Santiago Casilla replaced Blanton in the seventh and got Lugo, Ellsbury and Pedroia to go down, one, two, three.

In relief of Matsuzaka, Okajima went 1 2/3 innings allowing the first walk by a Red Sox pitcher before turning the ball over to closer Jonathan Papelbon to get the last four outs of the game. Papelbon pitched 1 1/3 and remarkably striking out the side in the ninth to close out Boston’s second win of the season and his second save of the season.

The Red Sox will send Jon Lester to the mound in the series finale against Oakland, Wednesday April 4. Last week Lester was out-performed by Rich Harden's magnificent performance of striking out nine Red Sox batters while allowing just three hits and one run. After tomorrow's game, the Sox will travel North of the Border to Canada to play division rival the Toronto Blue Jays for a three game series April 4-6.

WIN: Daisuke Matsuzaka (1-0)

LOSS: Joe Blanton (0-1)

SAVE: Jonathan Papelbon (2)


Game Notes:

Jacoby Ellsbury’s first game of 2008 batting lead-off and grounded out to first base.

Jason Varitek threw out his first base runner of the year, Oakland catcher Suzuki attempting steal second base for the second out of the third.

David Ortiz went 0-for-4, flying out to left twice and grounding to first twice. He is now 0-for-11 on the season.

Three Stars of the Game:

  1. Daisuke Matsuzaka, BOSTON - 6.2 IP, 2 Hits, 1 ER, 9 Ks
  2. Jason Varitek, BOSTON – 2-4 Game Winning RBI double
  3. Jack Cust, OAKLAND – 1-2 HR, BB

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