Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Matsuzaka Watch: Episode 3

That's right folks. It's time once again for the Greatest Show on Earth. The superific fantabulous ultra-amazing gyro armed wonder who can shoot smoke from his fingers and walk barefoot on hot coals. Daisuke Matsuzaka has once again taken the mound, and Canyon of Heroes brings you the story that inquiring minds want to know.

Matsuzaka and the Seibu Lions took the field tonight against the defending Japan Series champion Chiba Lotte Marines. Manager Bobby Valentine was on hand, with former Met players Benny "Hawaiian Punch" Agbayani and Matt Franco hitting in the middle of the order. Several key members of the WBC champion team played for Lotte tonight against the tournament's MVP. Would the Lotte powerhouse, fueled by some of international baseball's best everyday players, be able to gang up on the lone gunslinger? The answer is....no.

Several of the Lotte alumni of the WBC team factored in the outcome of the ballgame, but it was Matsuzaka who dominated from beginning to end. His stoic presence on the hill was never shaken, even with speedster Tsuyoshi Nishioka running the bases behind him after reaching on a bunt. Nishioka was erased on a wicked throw from Seibu right fielder Takahiko "G.G." Sato after trying to tag up. He subsequently left the game with a sprained ankle. WBC "Best 9" member Tomoya Satozaki sat this game out in favor of reserve catcher Tasuku Hashimoto. Japan Series MVP Toshiaki Imae reached base against Matsuzaka but could do nothing bt watch his teammates flail at the deadly offerings that followed. Finally, Lotte closer and WBC standout Yasuhiko Yabuta was wild and didn't trust his fastball enough. With runners in scoring position Sato, a former Phillies single-A catcher, singled to give Seibu a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the 8th inning. That was all she wrote as Daisuke struck out the side in the 9th to end with 129 pitches and 13 strikeouts, with only 5 hits and no walks.

The only run that Matsuzaka gave up in the game was a cheap home run, on a 3-2 count, to light hitting second baseman Hisao Heiuchi. Unwilling to give up the walk, Matsuzaka blazed a straight fastball over the plate hoping to overpower the smallish middle infielder. What can you say? Every dog has it's day, right. The rest of the night he was electric and calm under pressure. Featuring a Pedro Martinez-like fastball with wicked movement and a Mussina-esque 12-6 curve, the hurler worked out of a few error plagued innings. Two ground ball boots in the 8th by his corner infielders prompted little reaction from Matsuzaka. He smiled and pointed as if to say, "Whatever fellas. I'll just have to strike out the next two guys to get out of the inning." And he did. His pitches looked like optical illusions tonight. Here's his updated numbers and a little video for you (click below):


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