Daisuke Matsuzaka’s strong rookie season is suddenly starting to sputter.
The Red Sox, owners of the majors’ best record, have a six-game lead over the New York Yankees in the East, but haven’t won with their celebrated Japanese rookie since Aug. 4.
Matsuzaka (13-11, 3.88 ERA) has allowed 13 runs in 18 1-3 innings during his losing skid, and the Red Sox (82-55) have lost the last four times he’s taken the mound.
The right-hander gave up five runs and six hits in 6 1-3 innings of a 5-3 loss to the New York Yankees on Tuesday.
“I think that all the responsibility for our recent losses belongs to me,” Matsuzaka said through a translator on the team’s official Web site.
He is 1-2 with a 6.88 ERA in his three home starts since the All-Star break, with his only win coming over Toronto. Matsuzaka gave up four runs and nine hits in six innings of a 9-4 win over the Blue Jays at Fenway Park on July 14, and is 2-1 with a 3.32 ERA in three starts against them.
Mike Lowell extended his hitting streak to a season-high 15 games with a run-scoring single in Sunday’s 3-2 win over Baltimore. Lowell is batting .482 (27-for-56) with 16 RBIs during his run, and has hit safely in all 11 games against the Blue Jays this year, going 16-for-43 (.372) with five homers and 12 RBIs.
David Ortiz has five homers and 13 RBIs in his last nine games, and is batting .354 (17-for-48) with three home runs, six doubles and 12 RBIs in 12 games against Toronto this season.
The Red Sox have won seven of 12 games over the Blue Jays this year, but have lost four of six meetings at Fenway Park.
Toronto (70-66) is coming off a three-game sweep over Seattle, capped by a 6-4 win on Sunday. The Blue Jays have won seven of their last 10 to move a season-high four games over .500, and within 5 1/2 games of the Yankees for the wild card.
“Everything is kind of clicking right now,” Sunday’s winning pitcher A.J. Burnett said. “We’re hitting, we’re playing D and the pitching staff is doing a good job.”
Toronto third baseman Troy Glaus is batting .320 (8-for-25) with a home run in seven games against the Red Sox this season, and is 4-for-6 with a homer and a double against Matsuzaka.
Jesse Litsch (5-6, 3.40) looks to help the Blue Jays win their fourth straight game for the first time since winning five in a row July 21-25 when he takes the hill Monday.
Litsch gave up two runs and four hits in six innings of a 5-4 win over Oakland on Tuesday, but was not a factor in the decision. Since being called up from Triple-A Syracuse on July 3, Litsch has allowed two earned runs or less in eight of his 10 starts. He is 3-2 with a 1.60 ERA in six road starts in that span.
In his only start against the Red Sox, the 22-year-old rookie right-hander gave up one run and nine hits in 6 2-3 innings to earn a 2-1 win at Fenway Park on July 15.