As the Boston Red Sox seek their longest winning streak in almost two years, they’ll turn to a pitcher who hasn’t lost in 2008.
Daisuke Matsuzaka looks to lead the Red Sox to their seventh straight victory overall and a four-game sweep of the Kansas City Royals as the teams conclude their series at Fenway Park on Thursday afternoon.
Boston (30-19) has won six straight games for the second time this season, with the other streak coming April 17-22. The Red Sox have not won seven in a row since a 12-game run June 16-29, 2006.
All of the current streak has come at Fenway, where Boston has won nine consecutive games overall to improve to a major league-best 20-5 at home. The Red Sox are batting .300 in home games.
“He throws hard. It’s Colon,” said Kansas City center fielder Joey Gathright, who had two hits, two walks and scored all three of his club’s runs in his own return after missing four games with a shoulder injury. “He’s still got good stuff.”
Matsuzaka (7-0, 2.15 ERA) began the current win streak Saturday in a 5-3 victory over Milwaukee. The Japanese right-hander limited the Brewers to two unearned runs and seven hits in 6 2-3 innings. He also walked only two batters, demonstrating better control two outings after issuing a career-high eight free passes in a May 5 win at Detroit.
“I guess I’ve stopped thinking I’m a pitcher that can paint the corners,” said Matsuzaka, who walked eight in five innings two starts ago. “I’m throwing a little less there.”
The Red Sox have won Matsuzaka’s last 11 starts dating to last season.
Matsuzaka’s only career start against the Royals was his major league debut, on April 5, 2007, at Kansas City. He gave up one run over seven innings, striking out 10 while walking one in a 4-1 victory.
Royals starter Brian Bannister (4-5, 4.29) should be glad this is a day game. The right-hander has been nearly unhittable in his four day starts, going 4-0 with an 0.62 ERA and a .126 opponent batting average, giving up only two earned runs and 12 hits over 29 innings. At night, he has lost all five of his starts while compiling an 8.13 ERA and a .325 opponent batting average.
Bannister pitched under the lights Saturday at Florida and got hit hard, allowing six runs in 6 1-3 innings of the Royals’ 7-3 defeat.
He lost his only career start against the Red Sox last July 16 at Fenway, where he yielded four runs and five hits—including homers by Pedroia, Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz—in six innings as Kansas City fell 4-0.
Just as the Royals (21-25) got shut out in that game, they’ve also produced little offense in this series, which began Monday night with Jon Lester’s no-hitter. Kansas City had batted .307 and averaged 5.1 runs while winning six of seven entering the set against the Red Sox, but has managed only four runs and 12 hits during the first three games at Fenway.
The Royals are trying to avoid suffering their first four-game sweep at Boston since July 15-17, 1988.