Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox

Monday, May 05, 2008

THE MARVEL OF MATSUZAKA

Exactly how Daisuke Matsuzaka earned a "W" tonight is tough to figure.

The unpredictable pitcher's stat line was schizophrenic to the point of unbelievable; just two hits, but EIGHT walks, resulting in just one run, over five innings. In that span he threw 109 pitches. And when all was said and done, the hurler -- who is ninth in the AL in strike outs -- had just one K.

As I said, tough to figure.

As one might imagine, the eight walks were a personal high for Matsuzaka, whose career spans less than two seasons. It also tied the major league high for walks this season. It's hard to imagine a pitcher with even seven walks being left in a game.

Matsuzaka went to three-ball counts on five of the first seven batters he faced. Through three innings, though he had allowed no hits, he had posted five walks. In fact, the Tigers didn't notch their first hit against him until the fourth inning. By the end of the fifth, Matsuzaka had allowed a stingy two hits, yet a staggering 10 Tigers had reached base. How he managed to surrender just one run is anybody's guess. If he had given up any more hits it may have lead to a blowout.

The issue of walks has plagued Matsuzaka all season. Tonight's struggle highlighted a larger problem; Matsuzaka is tied for the Major League Lead with 27 free passes. That makes his 5-0 record rather amazing. But since he only surrendered one run tonight, his ERA dropped to a meager 2.43 -- fourth best in the AL.

Say what you will, but the guy is a study in contrasts. You've got to give him credit; getting a win under those circumstances was quite remarkable. The last Red Sox pitcher who gave up eight walks and still got a win was Oil Can Boyd back in June of 1985.

Matsuzaka is a determined competitor. He won't give hitters anything to hit, and even when behind in the count, he won't back down. That kind of stubbornness has lead to the high walk total. He gets himself into jams, and more often than not he gets out of them.

A Matsuzaka start is often an adventure -- one that raises your blood pressure and keeps you on the edge of your seat. But ultimately it's tough to criticize 5-0 and 2.43. It may be unconventional, and heart-racing, but he gets the job done.

Remember tonight. It could be at least another 23 years before a Red Sox pitcher gives up eight walks en route to a victory. At least let's hope so.

Copyright © 2008 Sean M. Kennedy. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author's consent.

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