Through Dice-K Matsuzaka’s first 10 starts of the 2008 season, the Boston Red Sox were a perfect 10-0 and the Japanese ace boasted an 8-0 record to lead all pitchers in the majors. Tuesday night not only did Matsuzaka not pick up the victory but the Sox fell for the first time in one of his starts, losing to the Seattle Mariners 4-3 at Safeco Field.
After pitching 4 innings and allowing 3 runs, only 2 earned, Matsuzaka came out to warm up for the 5th inning but after two warm up pitches appeared to wince and grab an area in his lower back.
“Even before I went on the mound, I felt things were a little bit off in the bullpen,” Matsuzaka said. “I wasn’t at my best. After pitching the fourth inning, I definitely felt there was something wrong, and I had a conversation with the coaching staff.”
Manager Terry Francona immediately popped out of the dugout and joined his star pitcher on the mound. After a short conversation through a translator, Francona had heard enough and called for David Aardsma from the bullpen to replace the injured starter. Matsuzaka is scheduled to pitch next on Sunday in Baltimore but is unsure if he will be able to make the start.
“We’ll certainly keep an eye on him,” Francona said. “They are going to ice it, let it cool down. … You just always have to err on the side of caution.”
The team has already been without former staff ace Curt Schilling who has been sidelined on the DL with shoulder problems all season. Recently they also lost Clay Buchholtz to the DL with a broken fingernail on his pitching hand, so losing Matsuzaka would be a huge loss at this point in the season.
When Matsuzaka left the game the Sox were trailing 3-0 and his perfect record looked to be in jeopardy.
Manny Ramirez picked up his teammate and belted a 3-run homer in the 6th inning to even the score at 3-3. The blast was Ramirez’s 499th career homerun, putting him just one shy of the 500 milestone. With his next round-tripper, he will become only the 24th player in MLB history to accomplish the feat.
The Sox bullpen held the Mariners scoreless through the 8th inning allowing only 2 hits over the 4 innings of work after Matsuzaka departed. The combination of Aardsma, Manny Delcarmen and Hideki Okajima were very effective in keeping the game tied.
Boston was able to put runners on base in the 7th, 8th and 9th innings but couldn’t advance them past first. They would strand 6 runners on base over the game and besides Ramirez’s homerun couldn’t seem to muster a clutch hit against Seattle’s pitching.
Mike Timlin came on to pitch the 9th for the Red Sox and his season struggles continued. After allowing a leadoff single to Wladimir Balentien, the M’s played some small ball having Miguel Cairo sacrifice Balentien to second base with a sac bunt. Jeremy Reed then took the ball the other way on a ground out to Dustin Pedroia at 2nd base, advancing the runner to third. Timlin intentionally walked Ichiro Suzuki to face Jose Lopez with two outs, and on a 1-2 pitch Lopez lined a single over the glove of Mike Lowell at 3rd, driving in the game winning run for a Mariners 4-3 victory. Timlin is now 2-3 on the season with a 6.89 ERA.
While the Sox continue to struggle on the road, the victory breaks a 7-game losing streak for Seattle. Boston is now 11-18 away from Fenway Park for the season.
In tonight’s rubber game of the series, Tim Wakefield will hurl against Eric Bedard at 10:10 EST. Wakefield is coming off of a rough outing allowing 8 earned runs over only 5 innings of work against Oakland on the first game of the road trip. Bedard is also coming off of his worst outing of the season where he allowed 9 earned runs over 4 1/3 innings or work against the Yankees last Friday.
Following the game the Sox will ship out to Baltimore for a four game series while the Mariners will welcome Detroit into town for a three game set.