Coming off his best major league start, Daisuke Matsuzaka gets his first experience with interleague play on Saturday when the he opens a day-night doubleheader for the Boston Red Sox against the Atlanta Braves.
The teams are playing a doubleheader after Friday’s interleague contest was postponed due to rain a few hours before the first pitch.
It will be the second straight twinbill for the Red Sox (28-12), who swept two games Thursday against Detroit after a Wednesday rainout. Friday’s scheduled three-game series opener against Atlanta (25-16) was the fourth game this season postponed at Fenway because of weather.
Minor league call-up Devern Hansack (0-0, 13.50 ERA) was originally supposed to pitch Friday’s contest for Boston, but he’s been pushed back to the night game. Matsuzaka (5-2, 4.17) will pitch the afternoon contest as scheduled for the Red Sox, who are looking to improve upon the best record in the majors.
The Japanese sensation has been impressive in his last two starts, allowing a combined two runs and 11 hits over 16 innings. He pitched his first major league complete game on Monday against Detroit, allowing six hits while striking out five in a 7-1 win.
“I wouldn’t say that my stuff was the best that I’ve ever had” in the majors, Matsuzaka said through a translator, “but as for the results, I’m definitely the most happy about what happened today.”
Boston has won Matsuzaka’s last five starts.
The Braves (25-16), losers of four of five, will counter with Anthony Lerew (0-1, 6.52) in the opener. Lerew gave up five runs and seven hits in 3 2-3 innings of Sunday’s 13-2 loss at Pittsburgh.
The 24-year-old right-hander made the first start of his career on May 8, allowing two runs in six innings of Atlanta’s 3-2 win over San Diego. He made eight career relief appearances before this season, but has never faced Boston.
In the nightcap, Atlanta will hand the ball to John Smoltz (5-2, 3.19), who dislocated his right pinky finger on Monday in a loss to the Nationals. The Braves activated Mark Redman from the disabled list in case he couldn’t start, but manager Bobby Cox told the team’s Web site on Friday that he expects Smoltz to be ready Saturday night.
“(Smoltz) thought it was going to rain (for the afternoon contest),” Cox said. “He didn’t want to get messed up in the middle of the game. That was my thinking too.”
Smoltz allowed two runs and four hits in 6 2-3 innings against Washington in the 2-1 loss. The veteran right-hander is 1-0 with a 1.09 ERA in nine appearances - three starts - against the Red Sox, who have won four straight over Atlanta.
Smoltz will be opposed by Hansack, who was recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket to start Friday’s opener for Boston in place of Josh Beckett, who is expected go on the disabled list with a torn flap of skin on the middle finger of his pitching finger that hasn’t completely healed.
“We included him in this decision a lot,” manager Terry Francona said of Beckett, whose seven wins lead the majors. “He was very thoughtful and conscientious in what he was saying to us and we talked to him for a long time about it.”
Hansack made his only appearance this season out of the bullpen, allowing one run and recording two outs in Boston’s 9-2 win at Toronto on May 8. He made two starts last season, going 1-1 with a 2.70 ERA.