Roll The Dice

Daisuke Matsuzaka Back On The Hill Tonight For Boston

The Boston Red Sox welcome Daisuke Matsuzaka back to the mound on Tuesday when the Sox open a three-game set with the Los Angeles Angels, Boston’s likely opponent in the playoffs, at Fenway Park.

More than an $100 million investment, Matsuzaka had attractive numbers last year with an 18-3 record and 2.90 ERA.  But don’t let the numbers fool you, Dice-K has been slightly above average since his arrival to the Major Leagues in 2+ seasons with the Red Sox.  The Japanese hero has hit rock-bottom in 2009 with an 1-5 record and 8.23 ERA and cannot be consider anything more than below average, thus forcing the Sox to shut down the right-hander with “shoulder fatigue” in June after Matsuzaka dominated in the World Baseball Classic.

So here we stand, on September 15, 4.5 games up on the Texas Rangers in the wildcard and Dice-K is on the mound against the Angels.

What a journey it has been.

Going from a squad that had a plethora of starting pitching to a team grasping for anyone with little league baseball experience, the Sox have come full circle with Matsuzaka and their starting pitching.  The Brad Penny and John Smoltz experiment didn’t work out.  Junichi Tazawa dazzled early on before tailing off as of late, and Paul Byrd should probably go back to pitching batting practice for his sons little league team.  That being said, the success of the 2009 Boston Red Sox may hinge on the effectiveness of the 29-year-old Matsuzaka. 

Sure, the Sox have one of the best 1-2 punches in all of baseball with Josh Beckett and Jon Lester, and the emergence of Clay Buchholz gives Boston a dynamic top three guys.  But what a weapon it would be if Dice-K become a force in September and October.

Wizard of the gyroball?  Or pinball wizard?

Sox fans are hoping the former of those two options comes to fruition as a healthy and effective Matsuzaka, throwing everything but the kitchen sink at opposing hitters, could make the Sox a legitimate threat to win their third World Series in six years.   Four is always better than three, and with an experienced big-game pitcher like Dice-K, four quality starters is better than three, and in the playoffs, four equals the recipe for success.  

So Tuesday night is the first chance for fans and management to critique the often criticized Dice-K.  But what the heck, it’s just another roll of the dice.

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