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Less than 24 hours after the Red Sox won their first series of the year against their arch rivals the New York Yankees, they faced another rival in the Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays were off to a bad start along with the Sox, but they’d come in and blow the lid off of Fenway Park.
Trying to ride the momentum they gained from a stellar performance from Josh Beckett, the Red Sox rolled Daisuke Matsuzaka out to the hill to keep the good times rolling. Unfortunately, Dice-K wasn’t fooling anyone in his 100th career MLB start. In the first inning, old friend Johnny Damon started the hit parade by slapping a solo shot into the bullpens in right.
In the second, things got worse. Matsuzaka was leaving balls right over the heart of the plate and the Rays went at him like they were having batting practice. The Rays scored six runs in the inning, including another home run from left fielder Sam Fuld.
Matsuzaka was relieved in the third inning for Tim Wakefield. When Terry Francona took the ball from the battered pitcher, “friendly” Fenway was not too friendly as they booed Matsuzaka right off the field.
Wakefield started well by picking off B.J. Upton at second base, but he got beat up too in 3.1 innings. He gave up 7 hits and 5 runs.
Alfredo Aceves was the only Sox pitcher to come in and not give up a run over 2.2 innings. He also struck out two.
Former Ray, Dan Wheeler, closed things out by getting slapped around for 4 runs on 5 hits in 1 inning.
Offensively, The Red Sox played decent. The offense was at the disadvantage of playing from behind very early, but they would score five and lose for the third time this season.
Despite the 5 runs, the Red Sox struggled with runners in scoring position by going 2-for-12 and leaving 11 runners on base.
Old friend Johnny Damon put on a show in his return to Fenway. Damon added two other hits to his first inning home run. He went 3-for-5 with 3 RBI and scored 2 runs.
I think it’s obvious who was a dud in this one. Daisuke Matsuzaka took the mound against a team that was hitting .163 coming in, the worst in the majors. He found a way to get their hitting back on track by giving up 8 hits and 7 earned runs in 2 innings, ballooning his ERA to 12.86. He walked 2 and gave up 2 homers, while only striking out 2.
After the game Dice-K said this:
“I wanted to go aggressive to pound the strike zone, however my balls came into the middle of the zone and I didn’t have enough life (on pitches) to get batters out.”
The Sox are now 2-8 on the season and need to figure out their pitching situation as soon as possible. The Red Sox have the worst ERA in MLB at 7.29 and given up the most round trippers with 21. The Sox bolstered their lineup this offseason, but if they can’t keep the opposition off the board, it’s going to be a long 2011 season.