BOSTON - Daisuke Matsuzaka essentially has five weeks to show people he should get another major league contract. If Monday's performance at Fenway Park is an indication of what is to come, suitors are likely to begin lining up to sign the free agent for 2013.
Matsuzaka, making only his sixth start of the season and first since July 2, came off the disabled list to throw seven innings of five-hit ball for his first win of the season, guiding the Red Sox to a 5-1 victory over the Royals.
Matsuzaka walked two and gave up an unearned run without a hit in the first inning but settled in and threw 101 pitches (71 strikes) in becoming the third Japanese-born pitcher to record 50 wins in the major leagues. He reached the mark in his 112th major league game, making him the fifth-fastest Red Sox pitcher to 50 wins since 1918.
Matsuzaka (1-3) struck out six and won for the first time since last May 16. Three relievers finished off the finale of the four-game series with the Royals.
Cody Ross drove in three runs with two hits and Jacoby Ellsbury homered and doubled off of losing pitcher Luke Hochever (7-12).
The Red Sox made news off the field again after Saturday's mega-deal with the Dodgers. On Monday, Boston placed David Ortiz back on the disabled list as they took three of four games in the series.
James Loney, the only major leaguer the Sox acquired in the nine-player trade, had an RBI single on Monday for the second straight day.
There is a chance Ortiz, a potential free agent who hasn't always been thrilled with his contract treatment by the Red Sox, has played his last game with the team. He's experiencing discomfort in the same heel that sent him to the disabled list on July 16 and was to have an injection Monday and will join the team in Anaheim.
For now, the plan is not to shut the slugger down.
"If everyone felt, if he had that desire and the medical staff thought that it was the best thing for his career, that would definitely be done," manager Bobby Valentine said before the game. "But with the meeting of the minds, with David wanting to get back in uniform and the medical staff believing that there's a chance that he could, we figured that's the best way to go. We have the expectation he'll be back."
Meanwhile, the Red Sox, again playing without him, have won two straight games for the first time since Aug. 5 and 6.
Notes: Hideo Nomo (123) and Tomo Ohka (51) are ahead of Matsuzaka on the Japanese-born pitcher MLB wins list; and all three have pitched for the Red Sox. ... Royals' centerfielder Jarrod Dyson made an outstanding leaping catch against the wall in center field, robbing Dustin Pedroia in the first inning. ... Red Sox outfielder Scott Podsednik went 2-for-4 and is 13-for-29 in the last six games. ... Right-hander Pedro Beato, who won Sunday's game in relief, was sent to the minors so Matsuzaka could be activated, with outfielder Ryan Kalish returning from Pawtucket to replace Ortiz on the roster. ... The Royals sent righty Jeremy Jeffress to Double-A Northwest Arkansas and recalled pitcher Vin Mazzaro. ... Bruce Chen, who will face the Tigers for the Royals at home Tuesday night, suffered what appeared to be a right ankle injury in the outfield before the game and was on the ground for several minutes. He got up and walked off without much trouble. ... Clay Buchholz faces Angels ace Jered Weaver in Anaheim Tuesday night, a rematch of last Wednesday night, when Weaver went seven innings to notch his 16th win of the season. Buchholz, who had been hot, yielded seven runs on 12 hits in 5 1/3 innings, his shortest outing since May 21. ... Boston closer Alfredo Aceves served the third game of his team-imposed suspension for his run-in with Valentine and was to join the club in Anaheim, flying on his own and not on the team-chartered flight.