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Dice-K Preserves His Rotation Spot With One Of His Career Best
Posted By "Baseball Brenda" Sepanek On Apr 20 2011 @ 1:51 am In Boston Red Sox | 17 Comments
Monday the Red Sox looked to extend their first winning streak of the season against the Toronto Blue Jays. Could they make three in row? Patriots Day in Boston is one of the most exciting days of the year with the Boston Marathon and Red Sox game happening simultaneously. Boston is filled with optimism that day, whether it’s for the thousands of runners trying to finish the marathon or for the Red Sox to win on such a special day. Red Sox Nation looked to have a picture perfect day until we noticed Daisuke Matsuzaka set to the take the mound. Unfortunately most people had the same thought, “there goes our winning streak.”
To remind people of what happened in his last start, let’s just say it wasn’t pretty. In just two innings Dice-K gave up 7 earned runs essentially eliminating any chance they had to win the game right from the start, losing 16-5. It was one of the his worst outings of his MLB career and set Red Sox Nation in uproar causing many fans and media to question whether he deserves to have a roster spot.
Dice-K Last Start: 2.0 IP, 8 H, 7 ER, 2 BB, 2 Ks, 47 pitches.
Dice-K this Season Prior to Monday: 12.86 ERA, 7.0 IP, 5 BB, 4 Ks, 14 hits, opposing average .412.
Monday he took the mound and Boston fans booed him before he even threw a pitch. That’s typical Boston for you. He knew he needed step it up or else his job was on the line. “If I pitched badly, I thought there might not be another chance,” said Dice-K regarding his stellar performance. We all know that Dice-K is known as “Mr. Inconsistent” but it was reaffirmed Monday when he threw one of his best games of his MLB career. What’s up with this guy? In seven days, he went from pitching his worst to pitching his best.
Would history repeat itself Monday?
Dice-K Career vs Toronto: 6-1 Record, 3.80 ERA, 71.0 IP, 20 BB, 70 Ks, 11 Starts.
Dice-K notched his first win of the season and the Red Sox continued their winning streak winning 9-1. The story of the day clearly was that of Daisuke Matsuzaka. He was absolutely stunning and showed why they signed him in the first place. He pitched seven scoreless innings and only gave up one hit. He walked one and struck out three, throwing a total of 89 pitches. The only hit he gave up came out of the first inning with a single up the middle by Jose Bautista. In the second he walked Travis Synder with two outs and then proceeded to retire the last 16 batter he faced. The two runners he allowed, tied his career best in 101 starts.
It is amazing what a week can do. He went from giving up 10 earned runs in 7.0 innings (in two starts) and averaging three base runners per inning, to not allowing a run in 7.0 innings and allowing only 2 base runners in his ENTIRE outing. And he cut his ERA in half dropping it from 12.86 to 6.43.
He pitched as if his rotation spot depended on it. Maybe he was also trying to impress old pitching coach John Farrell who is now the manger of the Blue Jays. Some of the things he worked on with Farrell was trying to attack hitters, getting ahead of the count and keeping his pitch count low. And that is exactly what he did, throwing only 89 pitches, 58 of them for strikes. In the 3rd, he threw 11; the 4th he threw 11; the 5th he threw 10; the 6th, he threw 5; and the 7th, he threw 11.
Remember that interesting stat I threw out in my last blog? Before Monday, Dice-K had pitched a total of 143 pitches this season and only four pitches were swung at and missed. I still can’t get over that! But Monday in one only outing alone, he made batters swing and miss nine times.
Dice-K said he tried to keep his pitches down and used a different mental approach coming into the game by trying not to listen to people or think about his past outings. He clearly worked the corners and stayed away from the middle. According to Jason Varitek, he hit all of his locations so he couldn’t have asked for anything more from his pitcher.
Speaking of Varitek, the topic of him “calling a great game” never seems to disappear. It’s no secret that Josh Beckett and Dice-K feel much more at ease when Tek is behind the plate. Since the 2010 season, Dice-K’s ERA is 3.50 when Varitek is catching. But in his 19 other starts with other catchers, his ERA is 5.60. We all know the Red Sox want Jarrod Saltalamacchia to become the everyday catcher but they can’t seem to ween Varitek off of some of the pitchers and it is creating a difficult situation with chemistry between the battery unit on the field.
Salty: ERA 7.29, 11 games played, 19 home runs in 84 innings given up, record of 2-8.
Tek: ERA 2.40, 7 games played, 3 home runs in 45 innings given up, record of 3-2.
This is going to be an ongoing topic until Salty not only starts proving himself with his bat, but until the pitching staff starts improving their numbers and their comfort level with him behind the plate. And until he does, there are going to be plenty of people voting to see a lot more of Varitek.
Hot and Cold: Since 2007, Dice-K has 14 outings in which he has thrown at least six shutout innings which is 2nd in the Red Sox club house behind Jon Lester. That is the crazy thing about Dice-K, he is either super hot or super not. On the flip side, in three years, he hasn’t lasted past the 5th inning seven times. He also hasn’t lasted past the 7th inning seven times. What are we going to do with this 2007 rookie of the year? The Sox are stuck with him until 2012 but still owe him $20 million over the next two seasons. Prior to Monday, pretty much all of Red Sox Nation was plotting for him to be gone by the All-Star break but now I wonder if people have changed their minds.
There are so many positives that came out of yesterday but things didn’t start off in a positive way for Dice-K. Kevin Youkilis had this to say after the game. “The one thing that was shocking is before the game he (Dice-K) got booed. It’s funny how he came off the field and everyone was cheering. It’s kind of foot-in-mouth right there. But it’s good how he (Dice-K) responded to that. We know it’s frustrating for all the fans out there and we’re just as frustrated, but be positive and good things will happen.”
I couldn’t have said it any better myself. I personally am not a fan of booing, but especially when the booers decide to cheer for the person they were booing for minutes earlier. Either take a stance and stick with it or don’t flip-flop. The last time I checked, fans “support” their team.
Over the weekend, Jed Lowrie celebrated his 27th birthday in style, by becoming the hottest hitter in all of baseball. Up until tonight’s game against Oakland, he was in the middle of a 7-game hitting streak. His was hitting .625 (15-24), with an on base percentage of .640, slugging .958, and an OPS of 1.598. He had 2 doubles, 2 home runs, 9 RBIs, 8 runs and 4 multi-hit games over this past 7-game home stand. He was leading the majors among players with 25+ plate appearances with an average of .516, .545 OBP, slugging .774, with a OPS of 1.320. Although he has only played 15 games he has clearly been leading the Red Sox offensive brigade. Terry Francona has no choice but to continue to play him and ride his magical streak. In Monday’s game he went 4-5, with a home run and drove in 4 RBIs. Unfortunately the streak came to an end tonight in Oakland as the game just went final as the Sox lost 5-0, which dropped his .516 average down to .457. It will be interesting to see if Tito gives Jed the night off tomorrow or keeps him in the lineup. In my opinion he should be in the lineup at all costs for the indefinite future.
The Sox finished their home stand 5-4, and are now 5-10 on the season. During the four game series against Toronto they outscored the Jays 21-3. In the prior week, the pitching was not supplementing the offense and vice-versa. Now it seems the pitching and offense are finally meshing as one and clearly the pitching staff finally go that run support they needed. They still need to work out this lineup mystery as Tito has set 13 different lineups in 15 games thus far. The reason for that is partly because of Carl Crawford’s painful slow start to the season. Tito keeps moving him around in hopes to find a comfortable spot for him. During the Sox home stand he went 3-32 and finally broke out of his 0-15 slump in Monday’s game doubling off the Monster. Fenway erupted giving him a standing ovation. Everyone is rooting for him and it is painful to see him going through this struggle.
I am reporting in about my amazing experience Monday. For those that didn’t read my previous blog, I was fortunate to be part of the Patriots Day flag drop ceremony on the field. It was certainly an opportunity of a lifetime. Being able to walk out on the field during the pre-game ceremony and stand at the base of the Green Monster is something I will never forget. The flag was dropped from atop the monster and we had to catch the flag as it dropped and hold it taught during the National Anthem. It was super windy and challenging to hold down but it was such a fun experience.
Dustin Pedroia homered in his third consecutive home opener.
Trivia Question: Who is the only other Red Sox to do the same?
Answer: Fred Lynn, 1978-80.
Congrats to Jill Putala for answering correctly!
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