- May 3, 2007, Daisuke Matsuzaka: 5 IP, 5 H, 7 R, 7 ER
- July 23, 2004, Curt Schilling: 5.1 IP, 10 H, 7 R, 7 ER
- July 18, 1999, Pedro Martinez: 3.2 IP, 12 H, 9 R, 7 ER
- July 5, 1986, Roger Clemens: 5 IP, 7 H, 6 R, 5 ER
- July 18, 1967, Jim Lonborg: 3.1 IP, 6 H, 8 R, 7 ER
First things first: This was an absolutely horrendous start by Daisuke Matsuzaka. For the second time in a row — and really the fourth, if you think about it — he lost all ability to find the strike zone for an entire inning. That is certainly disconcerting. For a pitcher to show such dominance in most every facet of the game to seemingly without reason pitch like, well, like I would for an inning is frustrating and demoralizing, certanly for the team that then must try to bail him out.
Thankfully, the Red Sox did bail him out, scoring seven runs to match his seven, then getting the eighth in the eighth to seal it. The Red Sox could have easily rolled over, and who would blame them? Their "$100 million ace" laid an egg. It happens. As we can see above, the best pitchers in their best seasons still bomb a game or two (except Pedro in 2000). And the four pitchers above were not adjusting to a new professional baseball league, let alone a new country. (Although, in all honesty, Pedro’s 1999 crapfest was the result of overthrowing for the 5 Ks in the All-Star Game).
Clearly, for all the talk about not expecting too much from Matsuzaka, we were indeed expecting too much from him — at least based on the reactions in our game thread. Perhaps this is his fault for handling the Royals, Mariners and Blue Jays so well in his first three starts. But Sox fans were deluding themselves if they honestly expected his first season to go without bumps. This is one of those bumps. If Matsuzaka is the pitcher everyone says he is — and there’s not yet any reason to believe otherwise — he will adjust, he will adapt, and he will ultimately become the #1/#2 pitcher the Sox expect him to be. There is simply no rational call for bridge-jumping proclamations of mediocrity.
So the headlines tomorrow will undoubtedly be about what, if anything, is wrong with Daisuke Matsuzaka. But the fact remains: The Sox rallied from an early deficit and won a game no one really expected them to win once the damage was mostly complete. If the Boston Red Sox can win a game in which one of their top pitchers gives up seven runs, this is not a bad thing. It’s certainly, at least, the silver lining in what appears to be a growing cloud of concern.