Thursday, April 9, 2009

Joyce home run detours Dice-K

Daisuke Matsuzaka announced this spring his intention to throw more strikes, to be more economical with his pitch count and thus to take the Red Sox deeper into games.

Even after an outing Thursday in which he'd lasted just 5 1/3 innings but still thrown 100 pitches, he maintained his intention to pitch the way the Red Sox wanted him to pitch.

"Even while I was in Japan, I wanted to go deep to help our bullpen, and right now, not being able to go deep is stressful both for myself and the team," he said through an interpreter.

He wasn't that far off, though, from executing his game plan. The first inning actually went swimmingly -- he struck out Akinori Iwamura on four pitches to start the inning, and he struck out Willy Aybar on four pitches to end it. In between, the only time he even went to a three-ball count (the Matsuzaka special) was when he walked Carlos Pena on six pitches.

He looked like he was right on track when he opened the second, too. With outfielder Matt Joyce at the plate, he threw a fastball on the outside corner, a changeup just off the outside corner and a slider on the inside corner to work the count to 1-2.

With his next pitch, though, his fastball caught just a little too much of the plate -- and Joyce deposited it into the first row of seats behind the bullpen.

After that, things started to unravel a little bit. He missed twice to Gabe Gross before inducing a ground ball to second, and he went to a 3-1 count on Shawn Riggans before getting a ground ball to third.

And to start off the fourth, he walked Iwamura on four pitches. Two batters later -- Matsuzaka went to a 2-0 count on Carl Crawford before striking him out -- Evan Longoria hit a hanging slider over the Green Monster.

From then on, it was tough to worry about being economical. It was enough to worry about getting outs.

"There were nine hits, three walks -- that's a lot of baserunners," manager Terry Francona said. "Sometimes, when there's baserunners, you start pitching toward the game, also, and not giving in. Maybe sometimes one thing can lead to the other."

A pitcher has to have confidence to attack the strike zone. Matsuzaka looked like he was pitching with confidence to start the game -- but it's tough to keep that confidence when you see your best fastball blasted into the right-field seats.

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