MINNEAPOLIS (AP)—Has Daisuke Matsuzaka’s mythical gyroball finally made an appearance stateside?
The Japanese right-hander had a pitch slip out of his hand in the third inning and land about five feet from the mound before rolling to the plate, one of the few things he did wrong in Boston’s 5-2 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Saturday night.
“That’s that gyroball,” manager Terry Francona cracked. “It’s finally emerged. That was interesting.”
With help from an unexpected power surge at the bottom of the lineup, Matsuzaka (6-0) remained undefeated, giving up two runs and six hits in seven innings with seven strikeouts.
When he came over from Japan before last season, there were reports that he had a gyroball—a pitch that spins like a football and can break more than a foot from top to bottom—among at least four other pitches in his repertoire.
Matsuzaka even released an album of his favorite songs last summer with an original track dubbed “Gyro Ball,” but that was the closest anybody came to seeing one in his rookie season in Beantown.
Maybe Dice-K was just waiting for the right moment.
On Saturday night, he twice fanned Joe Mauer, who entered the game with an AL-leading .343 batting average, and used that gyroball to “set up” the first strikeout. After the ball trickled to catcher Jason Varitek, Matsuzaka came right back with a fastball to strike Mauer out.
“Nice changeup, huh?” Matsuzaka quipped.
After walking eight in his previous start against Detroit, Matsuzaka walked three in the first two innings on Saturday night, including one to Carlos Gomez with the bases loaded.
But he didn’t issue another walk in his last five innings, keeping his team in the game until the offense finally came through in the seventh inning, albeit in improbable fashion.
Coco Crisp and Jed Lowrie led off with back-to-back homers—Crisp’s first since Sept. 6 and Lowrie’s first of his career—to give the Sox a 3-2 lead and they never looked back.
“I kind of forgot how to run around the bases,” Crisp joked. “They were getting on me because I was running too slow.”
Lowrie went 3-for-4 and finished a triple shy of the cycle. Manny Ramirez went 0-for-5 and remains stuck on 497 career home runs.
In his first big league start, Glen Perkins (0-1) had little trouble with big boppers David Ortiz, Ramirez and Lowell in the middle of Boston’s lineup. They combined to go 1-for-9 with a single and no RBIs against the lefty, but the Red Sox got a big boost from hitters No. 8 and 9 in the order.
Perkins took a 2-1 lead into the seventh inning before the light-hitting duo of Crisp and Lowrie spoiled his evening. He gave up three runs and nine hits with three strikeouts in six-plus innings.
Not bad for a guy who was pitching in teammate Nick Punto’s cleats and with a glove his wife brought him from home after his equipment never arrived from Triple-A Rochester.
“It is a little ironic. You’ve got those two guys and got them to ground out a few times, got them to strike out,” Perkins said of Ortiz and Ramirez. “And then the eight, nine hitters, those are the guys you don’t want to hurt you. You expect the other guys that might do the damage, but that is the game of baseball.”
But the Twins couldn’t manage much more against the mystifying Matsuzaka.
“We just couldn’t figure out how to get runs off the guy,” manager Ron Gardenhire said.
Red Sox RHP Curt Schilling threw from 60 feet as he continues his rehabilitation of a shoulder injury. Schilling said he felt good and will throw again on Monday. … Red Sox RHP Bartolo Colon made a rehab start on Saturday for Triple-A Pawtucket, allowing one run and four hits in three innings with two strikeouts. … Twins 2B Brendan Harris (hamstring) missed the game, as did Red Sox SS Julio Lugo (concussion).