Dice-K, Lowrie lead Boston to 9-1 win over Toronto
BOSTON – Daisuke Matsuzaka wanted to impress his old pitching coach.
Did he ever.
Matsuzaka pitched one-hit ball for seven innings after one of the worst outings of his career and Boston got an early start on its third straight win, beating the Toronto Blue Jays and new manager John Farrell 9-1 on Monday in the Red Sox traditional morning Patriots Day game.
"Farrell is on the other side so I wanted to show solid pitching in front of him," Matsuzaka said through a translator.
For the past four years Farrell tried, often unsuccessfully, to get Matsuzaka to attack hitters and cut down his pitch count. On Monday, the right-hander threw just 89 pitches against the free-swinging Blue Jays, whose impatience at the plate worked in his favor.
"He threw a very good game," Farrell said. "He's had a lot of success against Toronto in the past and he's used his fastball effectively. He did that today and we weren't able to put good swings on it."
More importantly, Matsuzaka impressed his own manager, Terry Francona, after entering the game with a 12.86 ERA in two starts. Matsuzaka permitted only two baserunners, matching the fewest he's allowed in his 101 major league starts.
"If I did pitch badly," Matsuzaka said, "I thought there wouldn't be the next chance."
The game began at 11:07 a.m. at Fenway Park. The holiday observed in Massachusetts and Maine marks the anniversary of the battles of Lexington and Concord in 1775. Earlier Monday, the 115th Boston Marathon passed through nearby Kenmore Square.
Matsuzaka (1-2) got plenty of support as Jed Lowrie's four hits led a 13-hit, three-homer attack.
Matsuzaka gave up a clean single to center to Jose Bautista with two outs in the first. He walked Travis Snider with two outs in the second, then set down his final 16 batters to improve to 7-1 against the Blue Jays.
He struck out three and walked one. In his previous start against Tampa Bay, he allowed seven runs in two innings.
Toronto finished with two hits. Yunel Escobar homered off Tim Wakefield in the ninth.
Lowrie hit his second homer, a two-run shot in the fifth off Ricky Romero (1-2) that made it 5-0, and finished with four RBIs. He now has 15 hits in his last 24 at-bats.
At one point, Lowrie's .533 batting average was posted on the scoreboard.
"I understand, but who cares? It's April 18. We've got a long season," he said. "You don't think about it. You just continue to do what you're doing and go out there and just let it happen."
Kevin Youkilis and Jacoby Ellsbury also homered.
The festive day marked another special occasion — a hit by Carl Crawford.
Boston's left fielder, signed to a $142 million, seven-year contract in the offseason, broke an 0-for-15 slump with an RBI double that made it 8-0 in the sixth. Crawford, booed after his previous at-bat, received a standing ovation as he raised his batting average to .136 (8 for 59).
Francona was "thrilled. Everybody was. I was happy to see the ball hit before (a long out to left) because it was a good approach, but then you certainly want to see somebody rewarded."
Romero allowed five runs in 4 1-3 innings with four strikeouts, eight hits and fine walks.
"I felt great coming into the game," he said. "They have the offense. It's just a matter of them getting back on track."
The Red Sox have appeared to straighten out their season since losing their first six games and opening at 2-10, matching their worst 12-game record ever. Then they got three straight outstanding starting performances from Josh Beckett in a 4-1 win on Saturday and Jon Lester in an 8-1 win on Sunday.
"They really kind of baffled us today," Toronto second baseman Aaron Hill said. "It was embarrassing what happened to us the last three days."
Matsuzaka's brilliance was surprising after his bad outing on April 11 in a 16-5 loss to Tampa Bay. His ERA dropped Monday exactly in half, to 6.43. He said he simplified his approach and tried not to think too much about the advice he was getting.
"He threw a lot of strikes," Francona said. "There were a couple of points in the game where they got aggressive early in the count."
Matsuzaka left after just 89 pitches, 58 of them strikes. Alfredo Aceves pitched a scoreless eighth and Wakefield followed.
Lowrie, giving Marco Scutaro a run for the starting shortstop job, gave Boston a 2-0 lead with a two-run single in the first. The Red Sox made it 3-0 in the third on a double by Youkilis and a single by David Ortiz.
Ortiz started the fifth with a walk and scored ahead on Lowrie's home run. Youkilis added his second homer, a two-run shot, in the sixth before Crawford drove in his second run of the season. Ellsbury hit his team-leading fourth homer in the seventh.
NOTES: U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, a left-hander, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. ... The Red Sox are 67-49 on Patriots Day. ... Lowrie struck out swinging in his last at bat in the eighth and finished 4 for 5. ... Farrell said RHP Brandon Morrow should be back on the club Friday or Saturday. Morrow, sidelined with a shoulder injury, is on a rehab assignment with Single-A Dunedin.