Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Felix the Cat

The anticipated matchup between Ichiro and Matsuzaka was usurped by the King of Seattle. That would be Felix Hernandez, the 2nd year ace of the Mariners. His one hitter of the Red Sox stole all the thunder from the Japanese duo's matchup. In fact, Kenji Johjima's continued success against Matsuzaka also played a part in stealing some of the attention on this evening. The aftermath of the big event has since passed, and we're on to the next start. Matsuzaka vs. Toronto. For your enjoyment, a record of the matchups of the Seattle game:

Ichiro Suzuki (0-4 – 17 pitches: 8 fastballs, 9 offspeed)

#1 – curve (middle-strike), cutter (inside-foul), curve (low/inside-ball), fastball (inside-ball), cutter (inside-ball), fastball (G1-3)

#2 – change (low/inside-ball), fastball (high-F8)

#3 – change (low-ball), tight slider (middle/down-strike), fastball (low/outside-ball), tight slider (middle/down-strike), splitter? (in the dirt-swinging K)

#4 - fastball (brushback-ball), fastball (outside-foul), change (low-ball), fastball (FC4-6)

Was Ichiro amped up for this game too soon? It seems that he may have gotten himself into one helluva slump by thinking about the showdown too soon. Josh Beckett fanned the man 3 times in the game one night earlier, and Ichiro looked out of sorts against Matsuzaka. He wasn't flicking at the ball or putting the barrel of the bat on anything. Even the great ones can overthink.

Adrian Beltre (1-3, 1 walk – 11 pitches: 5 fastballs, 6 offspeed)

#1 - curve (middle-strike), fastball (G6-3)

#2 – fastball (outside-foul), slider (low/outside-ball), fastball (inside-ball), good curve (P6)

#3 – hanging change (RBI double off the wall)

#4 - curve (low/outside-ball), fastball (low-ball), curve (low/outside-ball), fastball (high/inside-walk)

Beltre may have reaped the benefit of some post-Ichiro adrenaline in his final two matchups with Matsuzaka. Daisuke couldn't seem to find the zone and lost the batter to some very mediocre pitches.

Jose Vidro (2-4, 1 RBI, 1 strikeout – 11 pitches: 5 fastballs, 6 offspeed)

#1 - fastball 96mph (outside-ball), curve (low-ball), slider (middle-foul), fastball (middle-single to left)

#2 - slider (strike), cutter (foul), fastball (outside-ball), biting slider (inside-check swing, called strike 3)

#3 - mediocre fastball (high-RBI line drive to center)

#4 - change (outside-strike), fastball (GIDP3-6-1)

Obviously, the discussions in the Seattle dugout were to swing early in the count in the third and fourth times through the order. You'll see the same pattern in the following batters, with some success in the third go around.

Raul Ibanez (0-3, 1 strikeout – 12 pitches: 5 fastballs, 7 offspeed)

#1 - fastball (inside-ball), slider (low/inside-ball), curve (inside-foul), curve (outside-foul), slider (G5-4)

#2 - slider (swinging strike), change (low-strike), slider (bounced-ball), fastball (low-ball), fastball (bounced), fastball (inside black-called strike 3)

#3 - fastball (centered-smoked line drive F8)

Ibanez looked overmatched all night. His line drive in the final turn at bat was well hit, but he was fooled on virtually every other Matsuzaka offering. Raul is a very dangerous hitter against a lot of Major League pitchers, but Matsuzaka is just the type to give him trouble...a guy that throws a variety of pitches at varying speeds. Of course, that's a recipe for trouble for most hitters, but Ibanez particularly likes to feed off the fastball.

Richie Sexson (1-3, 1 strikeout – 10 pitches: 6 fastballs, 4 offspeed)

#1 - fastball (inside-strike), fastball (G6-3)
#2 - curve (inside-foul), change (swinging strike), fastball (outside black-ball???), fastball (center-foul), wicked curve (inside-swinging K)
#3 - fastball (high-swinging strike), fastball (outside-strike), curve (check swing bloop to 1st)

Daisuke knows how to pitch to the giant lumberjack types. A steady diet of heat, followed by the nasty breaking pitch for the strikeout. The curve Matsuzaka used as his out pitch in the 3rd at bat worked, but Sexson got lucky and stuck his bat out for a cheap hit.

Jose Guillen
(1-2, HBP – 11 pitches: 8 fastballs, 3 offspeed)

#1 - slider (outside-ball), fastball (low/outside-ball), curve (high/inside-ball), mediocre fastball (middle-lined high off the Green Monster for a single)

#2 - fastball (high-ball), fastball (HBP)

#3 - slider (low-check swing strike), fastball (foul), fastball (high-ball), fastball (low-ball), fastball (outside-F9)

The scouting report on Guillen must be a heavy diet of fastballs. More than any of the other Mariners, Matsuzaka featured his heater to the hot-headed Guillen. I'll be interested to see how this plays out in the next Boston vs. Seattle matchup. Keep a close eye with me. I'm betting Daisuke uses the curve first pitch in the next game.

Kenji Johjima (2-3, 2 doubles – 9 pitches: 6 fastballs, 3 offspeed)

#1 - fastball (low-strike), hanging change (double to left)

#2 - curve (inside-ball), hanging curve (mashed foul), fastball 95mph (G5-4)

#3 - fastball (inside-ball), fastball (low/inside-foul), fastball (inside-ball), fastball (middle-double to left)

Johjima owns Daisuke. The mastery of Matsuzaka goes back to their days in the Pacific when Johjima was with the Hawks and Daisuke with the Lions. The catcher sported a lifetime batting average of .271 against Matsuzaka, 32-118 with 5 home runs. Where Ichiro has failed over the years, Johjima has defied the odds and beat up on "The World's Ace". Both of his doubles were solid knocks that left no doubt about who is Matsuzaka's daddy on the M's.

Yunieksi Betancourt (0-2, sac fly – 10 pitches: 4 fastballs, 6 offspeed)

#1 - slider (low-ball), slider (low-ball), hanging curve/slider? (SF to left)

#2 - fastball (foul), fastball (foul), change (low-L6)

#3 -fastball (high-ball), fastball (high-swinging strike), slider (inside-ball), change (F8)

Betancourt really never had a good look at Matsuzaka. The sac fly in the 1st go around was a bit of a gimme, but it pays to be in the right place at the right time. Matsuzaka worked off the fastball and finished with the hard breaking stuff, the reverse approach to the guys in the upper half of the batting order.

Jose Lopez (2-3 – 12 pitches: 6 fastballs, 6 offspeed)

#1 - fastball (middle-strike), fastball (high-foul), slider (inside-foul), fastball (G5-3)

#2 - biting slider (low/outside-swinging strike), slider (low/outside-swinging strike), fastball (outside black-ball), fastball (outside-opposite field single to right)

#3 - change (foul), fastball (outside black-strike), slider (outside bouncer-ball), hanging curve? (single to left)

Matsuzaka was sloppy with Lopez. This is the type of batter that he should make look foolish, but he couldn't finish the job after being up 0-2 in both of the final at bats. That's the kind of situation that puts a pitcher in trouble, losing the #9 guy after a dominating start.


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