Blue Jays: Round 2What a time to meet. Daisuke has taken his lumps in his last 3 starts, and has many of his fans in Red Sox Nation either jumping off the bandwagon or quietly wondering if all the hype is deserved. The walks have been up and the pitching has been erratic from the stretch, to say the least. Matsuzaka has had some time to work on his mechanics since his last rough outing, and we will be watching his progress carefully as he faces the Toronto lineup for the second time this season. In the first meeting, Matsuzaka was cruising until he completely broke down in the 4th inning. Pitching from the stretch, Daisuke walked in the decisive run. Looking back on that outing now, it's noteworthy that Red Sox fans were disappointed in his shaky showing. He only gave up 2 runs over 6 innings, while striking out 10. What we would all give for a repeat of that performance, even considering the awful 4th inning.
Toronto is now 0 for May, having opened the month with 7 consecutive losses. Over those losses, the Jays have scored a grand total of 24 runs, which makes a per game average of 3.4 runs scored. It appears as though both Daisuke and his Boston teammates have found our neighbors to the North at precisely the right time. When a struggling and demoralized lineup meets a super talented starting pitcher with recent control problems, something's got to give right? Who will budge first, the poweful Blue Jays offense that scored over 5 runs per game in April, or the Japanese ace who sported a stellar 2.70 ERA before meeting the Yankees and Mariners?
As I've been in the business of predictions this season, I'll give it a whirl again. I believe that you will see a combination of the two outcomes. The Blue Jays will find some success against Matsuzaka, but the 26-year old rookie will show his typical mettle in escaping real damage. Here's my prediction:
2 walks (both to Frank Thomas)
Matsuzaka will have a shaky inning when he gives up 2 runs, but he will escape it with a double play or some big "nobody out" strikeouts. Something along those lines. I also predict that he will finish May at 3-1 with 2 no decisions (the first being his last start against Seattle). All will be forgotten by the end of the month and Matsuzaka will start to get his fastball working to start ahead in the count more. The slider will also return to "plus plus" by sometime in mid-June, if not sooner. Buckle up folks.