Each starting pitcher tries to keep his winning streak intact Wednesday night when the Red Sox and Indians conclude their three-game series at Fenway Park with Boston going for its second consecutive sweep.
Matsuzaka (7-2, 4.43 ERA) began to feel nauseous in the second inning of last Friday’s start at Texas, and had to leave the game after the fifth. The Japanese right-hander struggled, giving up five runs, seven hits—two homers— and three walks while striking out six, but benefited from generous support as the Red Sox won 10-6.
The win was the sixth straight over seven starts for Matsuzaka, who has a pedestrian 5.17 ERA in those outings that has been more than offset by an offense averaging 11.1 runs in that span.
He expects to be healthy to pitch Wednesday.
“I still haven’t figured out exactly what happened (Friday night),” Matsuzaka said in a statement read by an interpreter. “But fortunately I feel better. I think above all else I need to focus on getting game ready for my next start. I also feel that I have to be ever cautious about maintaining my health.”
He’ll attempt to follow up a pair of stellar efforts from Boston (36-15) starters in the first two games of this series. Curt Schilling struck out 10 in seven innings of a 5-3 victory in Monday’s opener, and in Tuesday’s 4-2 win, Josh Beckett yielded only three hits and two runs over seven innings in his return from blister problems that forced him to the disabled list.
Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis continued to sizzle Tuesday. He went 2-for-4 with a homer to extend his hitting streak to 21 games. Youkilis also became the first Boston player with nine consecutive multihit games since Jim Rice did it in 1978. He is the first player in the majors with nine multihit games in a row since Bernie Williams of the New York Yankees had 10 in August 2002.
Boston, which swept a three-game set at Texas before returning home, has won five straight games for the second time this season. The Red Sox are looking to win six in a row for the first time since a 12-game run from June 16-29 last season.
“We don’t need Papi,” Youkilis said jokingly of Red Sox slugger David Ortiz, who has missed the last three games with a hamstring injury. “Save him for the playoffs. If we need a big hit, a walkoff, we’ll bring him in.”
Boston manager Terry Francona said after Tuesday’s game he expects Ortiz to return for the series finale.
While Matsuzaka hasn’t lost since April 17, Byrd (5-1, 3.81) hasn’t dropped a decision since April 21. The 36-year-old right-hander is 4-0 with a 4.05 ERA in his last six starts, and has lasted at least six innings in all eight of his outings.
Byrd threw 60 of his 73 pitches for strikes in Friday’s 7-4 victory over Detroit, allowing four runs and nine hits in 6 1-3 innings. For the fifth straight start, he did not issue a walk.
“Normally, throwing strikes isn’t a problem,” said Byrd, who is seeking his first five-game winning streak since July 25-Aug. 16, 2001. “But I was throwing hittable pitches when I was already ahead in the count. Against a team like Detroit, that’s like flicking matches at gasoline.”
Byrd is 3-2 with a 4.54 ERA in six career starts versus Boston. He has held Youkilis hitless with three strikeouts in six at-bats.
Ortiz has enjoyed better success against Byrd, going 7-for-23 (.304) with two homers.
Despite dropping the first two games of this series, the Indians (31-19) hold a 1 1/2-game lead over Detroit in the AL Central.