The return of Dice-K: Some good, some bad

By Matt Snyder | Baseball Writer
Red Sox starting pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka made his first big-league start since returning from Tommy John surgery Saturday afternoon, and it began with great promise before turning south in the fourth inning. There were some encouraging signs, though.

Dice-K's first pitch was a perfectly placed fastball to Steve Lombardozzi. He went on to strike Lombardozzi out before getting a fly out off Bryce Harper's bat and striking out Ryan Zimmerman. The entire inning was impressive for Dice-K. His breaking pitches were tight and deceptive. He had command on his fastball and, most importantly for Dice-K, he threw just 12 pitches, which included nine strikes.

Adam LaRoche led off the second inning with a solo homer, but Dice-K got through the rest of the inning with ease. And again in the third inning, he was great, setting the Nats down in order, 1-2-3.

The fourth inning, however, was a different story. It looked like we were watching the 2011 version of Daisuke Matsuzaka. A lead-off walk to Harper started things, followed by a Zimmerman single. After a big strikeout of LaRoche, Dice-K allowed a double and single. The inning ended when Adrian Gonzalez made a diving catch on a sinking line drive in right field and doubled Ian Desmond off first. If that catch isn't made, a bad inning turns into a circus.

Matsuzaka then allowed a double to start the fifth inning but settled down and got the next three hitters.

The final line: five innings pitched, five hits, four earned runs, one walk and eight strikeouts.

That looks pretty bad, but there are positives to be taken away. He threw a lot more strikes and appeared to have a much better bite on his breaking pitches than in the past two seasons. The K/BB rate is beautiful, especially for a guy with 26 strikeouts and 23 walks in 2011. Other than that bad fourth inning, he was real good.

On the other hand, you aren't allowed freebies in the majors. That one bad inning is probably going to cost the Red Sox the game against a good pitching club like Washington. The grade for this outing would be a C.

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