Red Sox 2, Padres 1
SAN DIEGO (AP)—Dice-K was OK at Petco Park again, and this time it was against Greg Maddux, not a team of anonymous Cubans.
The Red Sox have baseball’s best record, 47-25. The Padres came in with the NL’s best mark, but their third straight loss cost them first place in the tight West. San Diego (41-31) dropped a half-game behind the Los Angeles Dodgers, who beat Tampa Bay 6-3.
“When I found out that I would be pitching against Maddux, I felt very lucky,” Matsuzaka said through an interpreter. “I felt it would be a low chance that our rotations would actually match up that way.”
It did, and turned out that Matsuzaka was good as well as lucky in his first appearance at Petco Park since leading Japan to victory in the inaugural World Baseball Classic championship game in March 2006.
His 126th and final pitch was a 94 mph fastball that he blew past Marcus Giles, who went down swinging with runners on first and third to end the sixth.
Matsuzaka (9-5) allowed one run and five hits, struck out nine and walked five.
Maddux (6-4) lost to the Red Sox for the first time in six career decisions over eight starts against them. The 41-year-old also went six, allowing two runs and seven hits, with two strikeouts and two walks. Maddux, a four-time NL Cy Young winner, is 339-207 in his career.
“Good game,” Maddux said. “Got outpitched.”
Matsuzaka’s finish was much different than the first inning, when he struggled to find his control. He walked the first three batters before retiring Mike Cameron. Giles scored on Michael Barrett’s single to left, the catcher’s first hit since coming over in a trade with the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday. Matsuzaka struck out Khalil Greene and got Russell Branyan to fly out to right to end the inning.
“I tried to get off to a gentle start today but that clearly didn’t go so well. After getting into the jam I told myself that maybe one run would be permissible here, and that’s how I approached that tight spot,” Matsuzaka said.
“It looked like almost the game was decided in the first inning,” manager Terry Francona said. “He loads the bases and throws a cutter to Barrett for the single, then stops them flat right there and let us peck away. That was a well-pitched game all the way around. We scored two and made it hold up.”
Not only did Dice-K pitch against Mad Dog, but he got to face him, too.
“Knowing how great a pitcher that he is, I knew I would have to do my best to hold their lineup to as few runs as possible,” Matsuzaka said. “And facing him in the batter’s box, he threw a lot of two-seam fastballs to me and I was able to see firsthand what a great pitcher he actually is. He’s one of the pitchers that I look up to so I felt very happy to be able to see his pitches live and firsthand.”
Matsuzaka grounded out twice.
“He actually wanted to stay out there,” Francona said. “I had to explain to him, I didn’t think he’s a real good hitter. He said he’ll work on that next spring.”
Giles said Matsuzaka was hitting the corners and keeping the ball down around hitters’ knees.
“Anytime a guy can throw over 100 pitches and still have his velocity, that’s impressive,” Giles said.
While the Red Sox were visiting Petco Park for the first time, Matsuzaka had a pretty big win here on March 20, 2006, pitching Japan to a 10-6 victory over Cuba for the WBC title. Matsuzaka was named the classic’s MVP after earning his third win.
Nine months later, the right-hander with a wide array of pitches became a $103 million rookie—the Red Sox bid $51.11 million to the Seibu Lions for the right to negotiate with Matsuzaka, then signed him to a $52 million, six-year contract.
Jonathan Papelbon pitched the ninth for his 17th save in 18 chances.
Maddux gave up four singles in the fourth inning—including three straight with one out—as the Red Sox took a 2-1 lead. Dustin Pedroia had a leadoff hit to right and Manny Ramirez singled up the middle with one out. Kevin Youkilis and Jason Varitek followed with RBI hits up the middle.
“In the fourth inning there, I just didn’t make good pitches,” Maddux said.
Boston’s hitting coach is Dave Magadan, who was fired by the Padres in mid-June last season when their team batting average dipped to an NL-worst .252
With runners on first and second and two outs in the fifth, Barrett hit a liner up the middle but second baseman Pedroia swung around to his right and made the catch.
Maddux had an embarrassing moment in the sixth when his spikes stuck in the dirt and he tumbled over, with his pitch sailing well over David Ortiz’s head. Maddux got up, smiled and retired Big Papi on a grounder to shortstop.
“Senior moment,” Maddux said.
The Padres wore their 1982 uniforms in honor of Hall of Fame electee Tony Gwynn’s big league debut. … The crowd of 44,405 was the largest of the season at Petco and the third-largest since the downtown ballpark opened in 2004.