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Closing Time: Awful outing for Daisuke Matsuzaka as Red Sox lose in Oakland

07.03.12 at 12:47 am ET
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The bullpen came to life in the first inning, and so it was only a matter of time. Daisuke Matsuzaka had nothing when he took the mound in Oakland on Monday night, a fact that was just as apparent to those in the Red Sox dugout as it was to the Athletics hitters who were racing into the batter’s box to face the right-hander.

Matsuzaka, in a flashback to one of the worst outings of his career — a one-inning, five-run concession in Oakland on April 14, 2009 — lasted just one-plus inning while allowing five runs on four hits and two walks. He struck out none, and indeed, of his 28 pitches, not a single one elicited a swing and miss. His fastball velocity, which had been impressive in his return from Tommy John surgery (often 91-93 mph, topping out at 94), dropped precipitously, with most of his fastballs in his final frame registering at 87-89 mph.

The right-hander was undone chiefly by a pair of homers by former Red Sox, with Josh Reddick launching one in the first inning and Brandon Moss unloading for a three-run shot in the second. Five starts into his return, after he took the loss in the Sox’ 6-1 defeat at the hands of the A’s, Matsuzaka is now 0-3 with a 6.61 ERA. His strikeout (7.8 per nine innings) and walk numbers (3.1 per nine innings) have been solid, but he’s also given up 11 homers in 60 innings in the majors and minors this year.

It would have been unfair to have expected tremendous consistency from a pitcher who managed to make it back to the majors almost exactly one year removed from Tommy John surgery. And in many respects, Monday represented his first truly poor outing of his return.

That said, the fact that he lost the power to his pitches served as a sort of red flag, leaving the Sox with little choice but to yank him after just 28 pitches. And now, it seems fair to wonder whether his extreme struggles on Monday will serve as the impetus for some period of disuse.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

– Matsuzaka achieved a dubious place in recent Red Sox history, becoming the only pitcher for the club in the last 20 years to make three starts of one inning or less.

Ryan Kalish committed a defensive misplay in the bottom of the second inning. He ran down a liner into the gap by leadoff man Seth Smith, only to have the ball clang off the thumb of his glove. It was ruled a double, but it was a play that Kalish could have made. Indeed, it was not the first time in his comeback that Kalish has seen a ball hit off his glove, a reminder of the realities of rust after his prolonged absence from games last year.

Nick Punto, filling in for the injured Will Middlebrooks, went 0-for-3 with a strikeout.

Mike Aviles went 0-for-3 and stranded four baserunners. His OPS dropped to .698, its lowest mark since June 12.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

– One day after his game-changing homer against the Mariners, Dustin Pedroia offered further evidence that he’s moved past his slump, going 2-for-4 with an RBI single. In his last 10 games, he’s 13-for-40 (.325) with a .400 OBP, .500 slugging mark and .900 OPS.

Clay Mortensen came on in relief of Matsuzaka in the second inning and saved the Red Sox bullpen, delivering five innings in which he allowed just one run on two hits and two walks while striking out two against his former team.

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