April 11, 2007


Have they hit on something vs. Ichiro? (Gordon Edes, April 11, 2007, Boston Globe)

Do the Red Sox have Ichiro Suzuki's number, even without Daisuke Matsuzaka?

The question goes beyond Ichiro's three-strikeout game yesterday against Josh Beckett, which was only the fifth time in his big-league career he has whiffed three times in a game (Tim Hudson is the only other pitcher to get him three times, and he didn't do it in consecutive at-bats as Beckett did).

This was Ichiro's 51st game against the Sox. Until yesterday, he had struck out as many as two times in a game only once before against Boston. That was last Sept. 14, when Curt Schilling and Jonathan Papelbon each got him once.

In that four-game set, Ichiro had just one hit in 16 trips, a startling departure from his overall performance against the Sox. Ichiro began his career by hitting safely in the first 20 games he played against the Sox. The numbers dazzled: .458 (38 for 83), 18 runs, 18 RBIs, 8 BBs, 9 extra-base hits, and 15 stolen bases.

Since then, however, the Sox have handled Ichiro, who has more hits than any other big leaguer since 2001 (1,358). In 31 games, including yesterday's 0 for 3, Ichiro is batting just .268 (34 for 127) against the Sox, with 17 runs, just 9 RBIs, 4 extra-base hits, and 13 strikeouts.

One Sox pitcher said yesterday that they have adopted a successful strategy of pitching Ichiro, and the results prove it.

No one could have hit Josh Beckett, but you couldn't help noticing that the tape they showed of Dice-K pitching to Ichiro in Japan featured a strikout on a fastball high and away that was identical to the first time he was wrung up yesterday.

Matsuzaka Ready To Give Ichiro A Taste of Home (Dave Sheinin, 4/11/07, Washington Post)

Daisuke Matsuzaka was an 18-year-old phenom, fresh out of high school, pitching for the Seibu Lions of Japan's Pacific League early in the 1999 season, when he accomplished something so personally fulfilling he was moved to declare afterward, "My confidence became conviction today." What had Matsuzaka done? He had struck out Japan's best hitter -- a slashing, speedy superstar for the Orix Blue Wave who would leave Japan for the United States a year later with six batting titles and a .353 career average -- not once, not twice, but three consecutive times.

The hitter, of course, was Ichiro Suzuki, and on Wednesday night, halfway around the globe, they will meet again -- a confrontation that, in Japan, carries all the buzz of an Ali-Frazier fight. Matsuzaka, now 26, will be making his Fenway Park debut for the Boston Red Sox, the team that spent $103.1 million this winter to get him. The first batter he faces will be Suzuki, 33, the Seattle Mariners' center fielder and leadoff hitter.

One almost has to pity those so unfortunate as to not live in the Nation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 11, 2007 7:11 AM

Nonetheless, according to yahoo.com Ichiro has a career batting average of .343 (72 out of 210) against the Red Sox. So he's cooled down to a more reasonable .268, it ain't like they discovered a cure for cancer. Overall, Ichiro still hits the Sox well.

Posted by: pchuck at April 11, 2007 1:26 PM

So close for King Felix tonight.

But then would've no-hitting a glorified minor-league lineup like the one the Sawx throw out there have counted in the record books?

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at April 11, 2007 8:18 PM

Yeah. A no hitter would've shut up the Sawx Fans for a few hours. Also, they were so focused on Ichiro! (who seems to be having one of his slow months where he only hits .250) that they forgot that Johjima faced Matsuzaka just a couple years ago.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at April 11, 2007 8:43 PM

The King leads my rotisserie team, so I was rooting for the no-hitter.

Posted by: oj at April 11, 2007 9:08 PM

Did anyone else notice Matsuzaka strike Richie Sexson out with the gyroball? Jerry Remy thought it was a poorly thrown "back door" curve but I recognized it when they showed the slow motion replay. I read about it before the game


The key quote is:

"Instead, it's falling like a rock and moving in the opposite direction of that same pitcher's curveball."

Posted by: andrew at April 12, 2007 1:24 AM

Johjima claims it's just a cut fastball, even though it breaks the opposite way.

Posted by: oj at April 12, 2007 5:54 AM