That, Red Sox Nation, is Daisuke Matsuzaka.
Forget the horrible performances from earlier this year. Even forget those rehab assignments. Because the Daisuke Matsuzaka we saw tonight is the guy we're used to. And he couldn't come back at a better time.
Matsuzaka pitched 6+ shutout innings to lead the Red Sox over the Angels, 4-1, at Fenway Park on Tuesday night.
Dice-K allowed no runs, three hits, three walks and struck out five to earn his second victory of the season. Matsuzaka was helped out by a John Lackey throwing error in the sixth that plated Alex Gonzalez. David Ortiz and Jason Bay also had RBI singles, while Ortiz put the Sox up even more with a dead-center solo shot in the 8th inning.
Jonathan Papelbon gave up a run in the 9th, but that was all against the Sox pitching staff tonight, which saw Ramon Ramirez, Billy Wagner and Daniel Bard as well.
This, without a doubt, may be the biggest game all season for the Red Sox. Maybe this is even the turning point for the Sox. Combine what Matsuzaka did tonight with your typical performance from Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz, and this may be the team to beat come October. While the offense finds its groove (barring Kevin Youkilis is OK after back spasms kept him out tonight), this team has just gotten 10 times scarier with Matsuzaka's performance tonight.
It's really easy to read into what Matsuzaka did tonight -- he was just awesome. He was the best we've seen him all year, but will it last? He has three more starts this season to prove that tonight was not a fluke. If he proves it, the Red Sox are heading to October with perhaps the best rotation the 2009 postseason will see.
Ninteen games left. Five games up on the Rangers. I'm ready for October. Are you?