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Daisuke Matsuzaka had many doubters coming into Game 1 of the ALCS. Many questioned his ability to go deep into the game due to his erratic control and usual high pitch counts. He answered those questions in a big way Friday night, taking a no-hit bid into the seventh inning in a 2-0 Red Sox win. Dice-K allowed no runs on four hits and four walks, to go with nine strikeouts in seven strong innings.
The game was scoreless until the fifth inning, when postseason hero Jed Lowrie knocked in Jason Bay with a sacrifice fly to right field. Kevin Youkilis added an RBI double in the eighth inning off RP J.P. Howell for a big insurance run to give the Sox a 2-0 lead. Both runs were charged to James Shields in his 7.1 innings, during which he allowed six hits and two walks.
Jonathan Papelbon slammed the door in the ninth for the save, striking out two of the three batters he faced. Papelbon has yet to allow a run in his playoff career (2007, 2008).
Dustin Pedroia is starting to bust out of his slump, as he finished 1-3 with a single, stolen base, walk, and a run scored. The fact that the Sox beat the Angels without Pedroia’s help was amazing, but in a seven-game series against the 97-win Rays, the Sox will need all the offense they can get. If Pedroia can get hot, then they will be just fine.
Youkilis was the star of the game with his 3-4 night, including the aforementioned RBI double. He also added another double and a single in his best game thus far in these playoffs.
Before the game, Evan Longoria stressed that the Rays needed to force Dice-K to throw many pitches, and focus on drawing walks. Dice-K indeed was all over the strike zone, as he issued four free-passes. In fact, of his 115 pitches, only 67 went for strikes, but Longoria failed to capitalize himself. He finished 0-4 with two strikeouts.
The Red Sox have won a francise-record six straight road playoff games, and will go for No. 7 in Game 2 on Saturday night. Josh Beckett will take the mound for the Red Sox against Rays hurler Scott Kazmir. Kazmir has given the Sox trouble in the past, but not this season (0-2, 18 IP, 9.00 ERA in 4 starts).