ANAHEIM, CA - APRIL 23: Daisuke Matsuzaka #18 of the Boston Red Sox is greeted by teammates in the dugout after he finished pitching the eighth inning against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on April 23, 2011 at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Friday, the Red Sox won a game that perhaps they shouldn't have, leaving the fan base feeling grateful for the win, but not entirely happy about the state of things.
Saturday's win was something else entirely: a great show of well-executed baseball by the every man on the field, but none more than Daisuke Matsuzaka, whose eight one-hit innings are the new high point for what has been a very impressive rotation of late.
To start, though, let's talk offense and positive signs. Unusually agressive at the plate, the Sox only drew one walk on the night--coming from Dustin Pedroia in the first inning--but made up for it with hits from every member of the lineup except for the aforementioned second baseman. Kevin Youkilis returned to the lineup in a certain type of style, striking out three times on the one hand and, on the other, delivering a big home run to right field. Carl Crawford showed some distinct signs of life, picking up an RBI single on a grounder up the middle to give the Sox their first run in the second, a sharply hit ground ball double down the line in the sixth, and making loud contact for a final fly out. Even Jason Varitek contributed, hitting a long double to score Crawford after his own.
As for Daisuke, well, this was him at his best. His fastball was well located, and his off-speed pitches well timed, getting the Angels hitters off balance and taking advantage of a large low-outside corner to collect nine strikeouts. The only hit he allowed was a line drive off his glove, and Jed Lowrie almost managed to get the out on that one, too. Matsuzaka could easily have found himself going for a no-hitter.
Not only was Daisuke's start impressive, but it was important for the Sox, who had a bullpen in serious need of some rest after the last few games. Working efficiently, Daisuke managed to go eight full frames before Daniel Bard finished the game in what might have been a bit of overkill. Either way, though, the Sox enter tomorrow's game with only one unrested bullpen arm.
With the win, the Sox have now taken seven of their last eight, including a 4-1 record on the West Coast. This has moved them into a tie for third place in the division with the Toronto Blue Jays, just a half-game back of the 10-11 Tampa Bay Rays.