I repeat: wow.
My first claim of the day: Victor Martinez should never catch Daisuke Matsuzaka ever again. Make like Matsuzaka is Tim Wakefield and Jason Varitek is Doug Mirabelli, and put Jason Varitek in there every fifth day. I think that at this point we have more than established the fact that the disparity between Dice-K’s performances with V-Mart behind the dish and with Tek behind the dish is occurring for a reason. Dice-K’s performances with Tek behind the dish are vastly superior, and when I say vastly I mean vastly. So that’s the end of it. That’s your answer right there.
As for the game itself last night, one more time: wow. That’s the only word I’ve got to describe what I saw last night. That entire game was absolutely incredible. I’m not even sure I actually believe what I saw with my own eyes. That was the best I’ve seen Dice-K pitch, ever. Really, I was speechless.
To put it simply, Dice-K had a no-hitter going into the eighth inning. You know you thought he had it in the bag when he somehow grabbed Werth’s would-be line drive in the seventh. Tek even said that that was the hardest-hit ball caught by a pitcher he’d ever seen, ever. I’m not really sure how he was able to snare that. That was pure intuition right there; he just put his glove it in exactly the right position and the ball found it. You know you thought there was no way it wasn’t going down when Beltre dove to catch Ruiz’s would-be line drive and fired to first in time for the out and the double-up of Ibanez in the eighth. Because you know that most no-hitters are accompanied by at least one amazing play in the field.
And you saw Lester and Buchholz sitting there and knowing exactly what was going on inside Dice-K”s head. You saw them sitting with Lackey and Beckett and thinking about what they were thinking when they were that deep into this same thing.
Dice-K was four outs away. Only for outs away from the mobbing by the teammates; the mad cheering by Red Sox Nation, Philadelphia Chapter; the turning of a corner; and the making of history. Only for outs away.
But Juan Castro ruined everything and dashed all hopes and convictions when he blooped a single over the reaching glove of Marco Scutaro with only one out left in the eighth inning.
I’m not going to sugar-coat this. I am convinced that Scutaro could’ve caught that. Technically, by the rules of baseball, that can’t be considered an error, but I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I say that it counts for the biggest unofficial error of his career. He had that. He just needed to time his leap better. And we know that’s possible because several starters on our roster do it all the time like it’s a walk in the park (pun intended). He needed to be maybe a foot more to the right and leap a few seconds later. So, in short, yes, Marco Scutaro wrecked Dice-K’s no-hitter.
It was crushing. It was absolutely crushing. Dice-K has had his fair share of struggles, and with the entire country of Japan watching, it would’ve been magical to see him accomplish that feat. It also would’ve been a great morale booster for the entire team; we’ve seen what no-hitters can do. They put life in a team that’s just witnessed, like I said, the magic and the history of it all. Of all the pitchers in Major League Baseball, he needed that no-hitter. Of all the teams in Major League Baseball, we needed that no-hitter.
Sadly, and that’s the understatement of the century, it was not to be. Crushing.
But all you can do is move on. And that’s exactly what Dice-K did, and what impressed me immensely. We know from personal experience that, after a pitcher gives up a no-no bid, they have the tendency to unravel completely; that’s when the opposing offense attacks and that’s when you might lose everything. Dice-K ensured that that didn’t happen as simply and easily as getting Gload to fly out to right field. But that says a lot about his composure on the mound. If Dice-K can turn it around permanently, he’d have the potential to be an ideal pitcher for the postseason, where every pitch counts and you can’t afford to get skittish after one mistake.
It was kind of strange as no-no bids go because it was low on strikeouts and comparatively high on pitches. He struck out only five, two looking, with a very even strike zone and threw 112 pitches, which again was more than Lester needed to get through an entire game. But even during his best starts during stretches of brilliance, he’d pull this Houdini act and use this uncanny ability of his to remain perfectly calm with runners on base and get himself out of all kinds of jams that he’d personally cause. Yet another fine quality of a postseason pitcher. So historically we know that he’s not exactly the epitome of efficiency, but we also know from his career in Japan that throwing large amounts of pitches doesn’t scare him. He doesn’t mind it. And if it works, it works.
His mix of pitches was exquisite. He threw mostly four-seams, topping out at ninety-four miles per hour. He threw his two-seam at ninety-five. He located his slider and curveball perfectly and mixed in some cutters and changeups at exactly the right moments. His fastball, slider, and changeup were the best I’d ever seen them. All of them had movement, and all of them had life. A no-hitter is all about being crafty and keeping the lineup guessing. That’s hard to do the third or fourth time around, but he did it, and it’s no small feat, especially against, as I said, an opponent like Philly.
He needed a game low of eight pitches to clear an inning, and used as few twice, in the sixth and seventh. He needed nineteen pitches to clear the eighth. There’s been a general trend in his starts of improving as the game goes on. And yet another reason why he’d pitch well in the postseason. The whole outing was just a huge begging of the question of, “What if?”
Bard cleaned up the ninth. Together they one-hit the Phillies through nine.
The final score was 5-0. Papi scored on Hermida’s sac fly in the fourth, hustling hard to beat the tag by Ruiz at the plate. Scutaro opened the fifth with a double, and Dice-K bunted him to third. Ellsbury walked. Drew singled in Scutaro, Papi doubled in Ellsbury, and Beltre doubled in Drew and Papi. Drew and Beltre both went two for four. Ellsbury started in center, which was a sight for sore eyes, and Papi started at first.
Ultimately, we just have to focus on the win. We set out to win, and we won. We won our way, with run prevention. Of course, that’s easier said than done. But a win is most definitely better than nothing; we need all the wins we can get. On the other hand, we also need all the magic we can get. But there are yet many games to be played. Starting this afternoon with Wake taking on Halladay.
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