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What should the Sox expect out of Daisuke Matsuzaka?

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With 23 games left this season, the Red Sox sit two games ahead of the Texas Rangers in the American League Wild Card race. These 23 games will obviously make or break the Red Sox's chance to make it to the postseason.

As much as we might not want to admit it, a lot of it rests on the shoulders of Daisuke Matsuzaka.

Ahh, Dice-K. Do you remember 2008? Despite his efforts to walk every batter in the American League -- twice -- in the course of a season, his year was pretty good. Sure, the WHIP was too high. Sure, he gave us all heart attacks every five days. But he didn't allow the runs to score and he got the job done.

That was last year.

This year, Dice-K's season has been injury-filled and when he did pitch, he was horrid. His best start of the season came earlier this week. It was a great start: 6.2 innings, one walk, one run and struck out seven.

For Single-A Salem. Hmm.

So the results don't mean much -- or, anything at all. But at least it gives Dice-K some confidence. Yeah, he's facing 19- and 20-year-old green hitters, but it was still an outing he can work off of. Throwing strikes and getting outs is the same at every level. And whatever way Dice-K can get confidence, I'm all for.

Let's go into a pretend world. Let's say that Dice-K is activated next week and throws seven scoreless innings in his first start back.

What do you say then?

I'm sure most of you would say: "It's just one start, let's see more." Some would say: "The postseason is ours!"

No matter what the results are, an effective Dice-K means a scary Red Sox team.

With Josh Beckett and Jon Lester being themselves -- and Clay Buchholz becoming a Lil' Beckett -- adding Dice-K to the starting pitching equation would sure up this team in a heartbeat. The Sox wouldn't have to worry about Tim Wakefield's back at all with those four revved up at top speed. As much as the Sox would love to be able to rely on Wakefield, at this point they know whatever they can get from him at this point is just a plus.

But let's get out of the pretend world and get into the real world. What can the Sox expect out of Dice-K? Will we even see him before the season is over? Will we ever see the Dice-K we saw last season again?

In pursuit of a World Series, the Red Sox would love to have him back.