He’ll try to help the Red Sox take a three-game set from the arch-rival New York Yankees on Sunday night at Fenway Park.
Matsuzaka (2-0, 1.47 ERA) allowed only four hits with seven strikeouts in 6 2-3 innings of a 5-0 win against Detroit on Tuesday on a day in which the Red Sox (6-6) celebrated their 2007 World Series title in a ceremony prior to their home opener.
“I thought he established, early on, that he was going to command the strike zone,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona told the team’s official Web site. “I think, for the game, on his 1-1 pitches, he was 11 out of 14 (for strikes). That’s such a big pitch. He started right from the get-go, attacking his spots, and he carried it right through to the end.”
Matsuzaka has struck out 22 batters in 18 1-3 innings through three starts - all wins for Boston - while holding opponents to a .131 average.
The Japanese right-hander will now try to help the Red Sox win back-to-back games for only the second time this season. He’s 2-1 with a 6.12 ERA and 23 strikeouts in 25 innings over four starts against the Yankees (6-6).
Boston hopes Matsuzaka’s recent form can help him overcome his trouble against New York after the Red Sox won 4-3 on Saturday in a game that was delayed by rain for 2 hours, 11 minutes.
That victory - their second in nine meetings with New York - came a day after Boston generated only two hits to fall 4-1 in the series opener.
Manny Ramirez hit his 492nd career homer on Saturday and went 2-for-4 with three RBIs. The 11-time All-Star left fielder is one homer shy of tying Fred McGriff and Lou Gehrig for 24th on the all-time list. He’s hit 53 homers against the Yanks, tying Hank Greenberg for the third highest total against them, and his second highest output to his 54 against Toronto.
The Red Sox could use some improved production from David Ortiz, who hasn’t managed a hit in his last 17 at-bats over five games. The slugger is batting .070 (3-for-43) with one homer and three RBIs on the season.
The Yankees hope Phil Hughes (0-1, 5.00) can rebound from the shortest outing of his career as he makes his first start against Boston.
The 21-year-old right-hander lasted only three-plus innings Tuesday, allowing three runs and six hits with four walks while throwing 87 pitches in a 5-2 loss at Kansas City. He threw just as many pitches in his season debut April 3 and was much more effective, giving up two runs and four hits in six innings of New York’s 3-2 win over Toronto.
“A lot of your start depends on how you go out and start,” Hughes told the team’s official Web site after taking the loss Tuesday. “You can tell by the first inning how things are going to be, and if things are off, you’ve got to try to make some adjustments. A lot of times, it’s hard to make those in-game adjustments, and (Tuesday) was one of those days.”
The Yankees are without superstar Derek Jeter, who will likely miss his sixth consecutive game with a strained left thigh. The shortstop suffered the injury running before Monday’s 6-1 win over Tampa Bay, and stretched with the team before Saturday’s loss.
Alberto Gonzalez has started in Jeter’s place in the first two games of this series, and is 2-for-5 with two runs scored.