One night after the AL East rivals played their first 1-0 game against each other since 1992, the Red Sox will send Daisuke Matsuzaka to the mound Wednesday for the first time in 12 days as the teams continue their three-game series at Fenway Park.
The Red Sox (16-12) have received dominating starting pitching in recent games, but it hadn’t led to a win until Tuesday.
It appeared Jon Lester might suffer the same fate after he threw eight shutout innings against the Blue Jays (11-16) on Tuesday only to exit with the game still scoreless, as the Red Sox couldn’t score on Roy Halladay. But a single by Kevin Youkilis plated David Ortiz in the bottom of the ninth inning, giving Boston a 1-0 win.
“It’s just a tough part of the lineup. Ortiz and (Manny) Ramirez. They can beat you with one pitch. You want to be aggressive,” Halladay said. “It’s a tough way to lose. You never get used to it.”
Still, Boston has managed just two total runs on 12 hits in its last three games, and hasn’t scored more than five runs in a game since before the five-game skid. In their previous 11 games, the Red Sox had averaged nearly seven runs, winning 10 times.
Third baseman Mike Lowell came off the disabled list Tuesday after missing nearly three weeks with a sprained thumb, but he went 0-for-3 with a strikeout. Ramirez and Dustin Pedroia have cooled, each with just one hit in his last 12 at-bats, and Ortiz - who walked in the ninth - has gone hitless in his last nine at-bats, with his batting average falling back to .172.
Toronto hasn’t been much better. The Blue Jays had lost six straight before beating Kansas City on Sunday, and they’ve now averaged just 2.6 runs in their last eight games, losing seven times.
Matsuzaka (4-0, 3.14 ERA) and Toronto’s Dustin McGowan will each try to extend his opponent’s struggles.
Matsuzaka has won four straight starts—matching the longest streak of his rookie season last year—but he was scratched from his start last week and pushed back to Wednesday due to a severe case of the flu. He’s also battled control problems and high pitch counts despite his winning streak.
He hasn’t made it out of the sixth inning in either of his last two starts, throwing more than 100 pitches each time. In those games, he allowed seven earned runs in just 10 1-3 innings, walking eight, but earned wins as the Red Sox scored a combined 19 runs.
“I realize that I have to go deeper into games,” Matsuzaka told his team’s official Web site. “The very fact that we have to even talk about pitch counts, I think that’s a problem right there.”
Matsuzaka has also won three straight starts against the Blue Jays, even though he allowed seven runs on 10 hits in just 5 1-3 innings against them last Sept. 3 at Fenway Park. He had a 5.18 ERA against them in four starts last year.
McGowan (1-2, 4.18) pitched a complete game in his last start against Boston, allowing five hits and striking out nine in a 6-1 win last Sept. 17. But the right-hander only lasted four innings last Thursday at Tampa Bay, walking seven and allowing five runs in a 5-3 loss.