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In the fifth installment of a classic adventure series, we once again rejoin “our hero” in yet another perilous situation. Be it hanging precariously over a pit of lava or strapped to a table beneath a laser while the villain laughs maniacally during his monologue, we sympathize with and are shocked by, his plight. And so the struggle would continue even as a new challenger arrived. Once heralded as one of the greatest hurlers on Earth, Daisuke Matsuzaka, armed with a deep arsenal of pitches, would defeat the Indians and restore order to the standings.
With his last in-game action coming a week ago, Matsuzaka’s slow start was nerve-racking, but not entirely unexpected. And true to form, after giving up two runs early, the enigmatic righty retired seven Cleveland batters in a row between the second and fifth innings and after 96 pitches (11 fewer than Josh Beckett needed to get through five frames the night before) left with his team still in the game, albeit down a run, the scoreboard showing 3-2.
While Matsuzaka did not leave with a lead, he kept the Sox in the game. The bullpen, much improved over the 2010 edition, was sadly not up to the task of limiting the deficit. A parade of Reyes, Wheeler and Wakefield marched out to the mound only to find themselves overmatched by Indian hitters. Too be fair, Dan Wheeler entered the game to clean up the mess left by Reyes, but when the less talented Cleveland pitching unit racks up 11 strikeouts on a night where the Red Sox muster just four, the blame is not just on the opposing hitters.
The new guys got it done. As part of a Sox offense that managed seven hits, two belonged to Crawford, who also stole his first two bases of the season, and one, a home run, was tallied to Gonzalez. Both men added a walk for good measure.
Sharing a name with the restaurant famous for offering “Grand Slam” breakfasts, Reyes entered the game for Boston with none of the ability he showed in spring training. Serving up one of the worst outings (he recorded no outs, so he pitched no innings) we will see all year, Reyes quickly fell behind 3-0 to the leadoff man before plunking him, then proceeded to hit the second batter as well and walked the third for good measure, loading the bases. Oh, these hitters were also 7, 8, and 9 in the Cleveland lineup.
W: Talbot (1-0)
L: Matsuzaka (0-1)