Atlanta - 200 220 101 - 8 11 1A horrific five-batter start from Matsuzaka put the Red Sox in a quick hole. Coupled with their weak offense -- Boston has collected only three hits in their last 14 innings -- it was a disheartening night from beginning to end.
Red Sox - 000 002 000 - 2 2 1
Boston got a two-run bomb to left from Jason Bay in the sixth, but that was the offense. Only one other Red Sox runner advanced past first base -- and that was Bay, as well, as he doubled in the second and took third on a passed ball.
How bad was Dice's first inning?
Nate McLouth: First pitch HR to right-center
Yunel Escobar: Ball 1, line drive single to left
Chipper Jones: First pitch double roped to right
Brian McCann: Ball 1, ball 2, ball 3, ball 4 (bases loaded)
Garret Anderson: Ball 1, ball 2, ball 3, ball 4 (RBI, bases loaded)
As Justin Masterson began throwing in the bullpen, Matsuzaka slipped a strike past Matt Diaz to a raucous cheer -- the first strike he had thrown that was not hammered for a hit. It was Dice's 13th pitch of the night. He lasted two batters into the fifth (4-8-6-4-2, 67) and saw his ERA rise to 8.23.
Matsuzaka did have a decent stretch after that bases-loaded walk gave Atalanta a 2-0 lead. He struck out Diaz and got lucky when Casey Kotchman lined into an unassisted DP to Kevin Youkilis. Dice walked the leadoff man in the second, but had no other trouble (11 pitches), allowed a two-out single in the third (12 pitches) and retired the first two batters in the fourth on three pitches.
Then a walk, double and single doubled Atlanta's lead to 4-0. And Dice allowed back-to-back doubles to start the fifth; both of those runners eventually scored, as well.
That 12-batter stretch was encouraging -- until the roof fell in. And so, the only question being asked is: How long can the front office keep sending him out to the mound?
Kenshin Kawakami (4.54, 93 ERA+) / Daisuke Matsuzaka (7.55, 62 ERA+)
Kawakami (who turns 34 next Monday) is a rookie right-hander from Japan. He made his debut on April 11 and has made 12 starts this year. In a spring training game back on March 30, Kawakami allowed two runs to the Red Sox in six innings.
Opponents are batting .372 against Matsuzaka, along with a robust 1.059 OPS. That OPS would be good for 5th best in MLB. His BABIP is .444! ... Beckett got his act together. So did Lester. Penny doing well, too. It's your turn, Dice.
IYI: On Wednesday, Dustin Pedroia became the first Red Sox second baseman since 1954 to log at least three hits, three RBIs and two stolen bases in a game. ... Derek Lowe is blogging.