Matsuzaka Watch: Episode 16The saga of the two seam fastball begins anew. Our hero promised to showcase the pitch in his July 26th outing against Orix. The Buffaloes were the team to hand Matsuzaka his worst outing of the year and I guarantee he wanted to send a message. The two seamer helped him to do so, as he was once again magnificent.
Reports around the Japanese press had been brewing prior to the start that Daisuke was breaking out the pitch for the first time since participating in international competition. He has showcased the two seamer in the Olympics and the WBC in the past, and I am at a loss to explain why he has been reluctant to feature it for Seibu. The speculation is that his interest in the two seamer has something to do with his desire to play in the US next year, and he's out to show a different look. Perhaps some scouts have questioned the effectiveness of certain pitches in his arsenal against Major League hitters (as hard as that is for me to imagine) and he wanted to show his across the board dominance. He did indirectly suggest his desire to make a move by claiming the two seamer was being taken out of moth balls to "take on the world", or something to that effect. Now to the game...
The matchup between the Buffaloes and the Lions was a close affair with the teams clinging to a 2-1 score in favor of Seibu. A collection of hits got Matsuzaka the lead, and the lone Orix run came via 3 consecutive singles by the middle of the order. Otherwise the young ace was dominating, featuring 7 ground ball outs to only 4 in the air, and 6 strikeouts over 6.2 innings pitched. The strange set of circumstances in this ballgame that limited Matsuzaka to 6 and two-thirds was a pitch in the 7th inning that got away from Daisuke and grazed the helmet of Orix' leadoff man Oonishi, who had sandwiched a single between two strikeouts to that point. The umpire immediately tossed Daisuke from the 2-1 contest, citing the "dangerous pitch" rule. Can you imagine an umpire getting away with tossing Johan Santana in a close ballgame without a warning? Gardenhire would go homicidal. He gets tossed for going ballistic when an umpire calls a slightly loose strike zone.
The bullpen did its job and held the Buffaloes at one. The Seibu offense put up a couple of extra runs to cap the game 4-1 and Matsuzaka got his Japan-leading 11th win on the season. His ERA is at a preposterous 1.92 as of today. Click the stats below for a better look.