No Fooling: Matsuzaka Masterful In Sox' Win

There were two baseballs that landed in the stands that Daisuke Matsuzaka wished he could have back Tuesday night in Oakland. He got back the most important one.

Matsuzaka allowed just one run—on a solo homer by Jack Cust—over 6 2/3 brilliant innings as the Red Sox beat the Athletics, 2-1, in their first regular season game in the United States Tuesday.

Matsuzaka allowed only two hits—he gave up a single to Kurt Suzuki leading off the third—and walked none while striking out nine. He retired the final 13 batters he faced and faced just one batter over the minimum over his stint.

Matsuzaka was far more impressive Tuesday than he was seven days earlier, when he allowed two runs on two hits and five walks with six strikeouts in the season opener. "I can say it in hindsight, but it would have been nice to have been able to pitch like this back at Tokyo Dome," Matsuzaka told reporters via his interpreter, Masa Hoshino.

Hideki Okajima (one inning) and Jonathan Papelbon (1 1/3 innings) preserved the win for Matsuzaka by allowing just one hit over the final 2 1/3 frames. "It was a really good job," Mike Lowell told reporters, referring to Matsuzaka's start. "‘Oki' and ‘Pap,' that's a pretty good feeling when you get them out there."

But after he recorded the final out, Papelbon threw the ball into the stands, unaware that Matsuzaka wanted it as a memento for his newborn son. Fortunately for Matsuzaka, he was able to retrieve it.

"I had asked my teammates to hang on to the game-winning ball, but I guess the message was lost," Matsuzaka said. "I witnessed the ball going into the stands, so I went over there and knew that I had to get it back."

The Sox were blanked through four by Joe Blanton before they nicked the Athletics' ace for single runs in the fifth and sixth. Jacoby Ellsbury's two-out singled in the fifth scored Kevin Youkilis and tied the game 1-1. In the sixth, Youkilis tripled with two outs and scored on Jason Varitek's controversial double. The ball Varitek hit appeared to clear the yellow line atop the scoreboard in right, which would be a home run, but umpire Paul Schrieber said it landed below the marker and the decision stood upon review by the entire crew.

"They thought it bounced sideways," Terry Francona told reporters. "The guys on the replay said it was a home run. They met and the way [crew chief] Wally [Bell] explained it to me, they have to be sure to overrule it. I could give them a heck of a lot of better argument if I had someone in the dugout who saw it on instant replay. They met and they were good about it and they said ‘We'll check afterwards.'

"It's hard. I wanted it to be a home run because I'm with Boston, whether it's a home run or not. It was hard to tell."


Diehard managing editor Jerry Beach can be reached at diehardmag@yahoo.com. To receive a free issue of Diehard, call 888-501-5752.

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