In fact, his six walks—and that fat fastball down the middle to former roommate Kevin Youkilis—were more than generous to the club that dropped him nearly four months ago.
Yet the Red Sox didn’t use any of DiNardo’s reunion gifts in a 2-0 loss Tuesday night, wasting Daisuke Matsuzaka’s strong start and falling to their ex-reliever for their fifth loss in six games.
“I got away with some stuff,” DiNardo said.
Eric Chavez homered in his second straight game and Nick Swisher added a run-scoring double in the fifth for the A’s, who won their fourth straight. Boston still has the majors’ best record at 37-20, but has lost three in a row for the first time all season.
DiNardo (2-2) held his ex-teammates to two hits over six innings despite minimal control of his pitches. He survived with guile and grit—and a sinker that helped the Red Sox hit into four double plays.
“I tried not to look at who they were, because I went to battle with those guys for three years,” said DiNardo, who won a World Series ring while spending his first three major league seasons as an unremarkable reliever and spot starter in Boston.
“If you look at their faces, that’s not going to help. I just tried to look at their blue hats and their jerseys.”
DiNardo made six starts for Boston last season, but missed more than three months with a neck injury. The A’s claimed him off waivers two days before spring training began—and after a lousy 2006 campaign, even DiNardo couldn’t argue with the move.
“I have no hard feelings whatsoever,” he said. “I’m not trying to rub anything in anybody’s face. … They wanted a guy that would perform, and I didn’t perform.”
DiNardo had pitched sparingly in Oakland until manager Bob Geren put him in the rotation because of the A’s numerous injuries. DiNardo pitched well while losing his debut start last week, but then matched the longest appearance of his career against the club that let him go.
He escaped bases-loaded jams in the first and sixth innings, and held Boston without a hit in the middle four frames. Youkilis had a chance to pound a pedestrian fastball with one out in the sixth—but his bat broke on the swing, and Chavez turned the grounder into a double play.
“I think we made him work, and we got runners on base, and then he’d make a pitch,” Boston manager Terry Francona said. “We hit some balls hard early, and we hit some balls not hard. Just a combination of both, and we couldn’t push a run across.”
Boston hit into its fifth double play in the eighth inning, and Alan Embree — who blew a two-run lead the previous night—pitched a perfect ninth for his fifth save in six chances.
Matsuzaka (7-4) was solid in his second straight defeat, yielding seven hits and two walks while striking out eight—a marked improvement on the 19 hits and 11 earned runs allowed by the Japanese right-hander in his previous two starts.
But his teammates’ failure to solve DiNardo sent Matsuzaka to a hard-luck loss in his first career start on the West Coast. Boston managed only three hits, matching its second-lowest total of the year.
“I had problems with my overall command,” Matsuzaka said. “The Red Sox are not a team that loses a lot of games in a row, so I definitely had a sense of urgency to stop the skid. … If the team had won, I could say I did my fair share. But with the home run, which I think was preventable, and the second run, I’m disappointed.”
Chavez has struggled along with the rest of Oakland’s offense this season, but his homer to end Monday night’s game highlighted an encouraging homestand. With his blast off Matsuzaka, the third baseman has four homers and seven RBIs in the first eight games of the A’s 10-game set at the Coliseum.
“Just the last week, I really got healthy,” said Chavez, who has struggled with a triceps injury. “Going through (the injury problems) I did last year, and then a different issue this year, at times I just wanted to give up. We’ve finally got this figured out, and I just hope it’s for the duration.”
Red Sox 2B Dustin Pedroia’s 14-game hitting streak ended when he was hit by a pitch in the eighth—and he then gave Oakland a double play when he fell down while trying to get back to first base on David Ortiz’s broken-bat popup. … Matsuzaka’s next scheduled start is against Arizona’s Randy Johnson on Sunday. … Francona rested struggling OF J.D. Drew in favor of Wily Mo Pena. Drew went 4-for-35 in his last 10 games despite getting a single in Monday night’s game after missing the previous two contests with a nagging hamstring injury. … Oakland is three games over .500 for the first time all season.