4-4: Dice-K slams the door on the Tigers, 5-0

Buckner throws out the first pitchFirst off, hats off to the Sox front office for giving the Fenway Opening Day first pitch to Bill Buckner. Few people have been so undeservingly maligned by a whole geographic region for 22 years, and it was clearly a powerful emotional moment for him as well as Red Sox Nation. The guy was a great player and trooper for Boston, and doesn’t deserve all the blame he got for 1986.

The Red Sox received their long-awaited bling for 2007, then proceeded to shut out the Detroit Tigers for their first home game of 2008.

Daisuke Matsuzaka (2-0) was truly dominant today. He threw 108 pitches, 62 of them strikes, to go 6 2/3 innings: no runs, four hits and four walks to go with seven strikeouts. For those of you who doubted my projection for him, I am now accepting written and verbal apologies. From the get-go, you could see that he had some feel for his 93 mph fastball, though there were still some minor glitches in his delivery. He was able to consistently get his pitches in at the knees, and his curve was nasty at 80 mph today. Matsuzaka is really stepping up at a time when the team needs him to help anchor this rotation. After a two-out walk to Brandon Inge in the 7th, Manny Delcarmen and Hideki Okajima came in and finished out the show in good form. Now that’s the bullpen we all know and love!

The lineup was also very good today, apart from not converting on numerous scoring chances (the Sox stranded 20 runners, many of them in scoring position). Truth be told, this game should have been over after two innings, as David Ortiz took a Kenny Rogers (0-2) “fastball” to the fringe of the right field warning track (about 370 ft) with the bases loaded and two out. I so thought that was gone. Curse you, abnormally large right field!

Manny Ramirez started the next inning off by launching a shot into the triangle, and made it close trying for three bags. Placido Polanco‘s relay throw was wide of third base, though, and Miguel Cabrera is not really a glove guy, so the ball skipped into the dugout, allowing Ramirez to score. That error was Polanco’s first in 186 games, nearly as long a streak as Kevin Youkilis has going. The Sox chased Rogers after 4 2/3, getting to the Tigers’ bullpen early. That will be a key for this series, as Detroit’s bullpen is their weakest link.

Youkilis continues his blazing hot start, going 3-3 at the dish with a walk, a double, a run scored and two RBI. J.D. Drew did what he does best, walking to force home the Sox’ 5th run in the bottom of the 6th. Julio Lugo collected two hits from the nine hole, where he seems to hit better. Anyways, it’s better to limit his at-bats for now. Edgar Renteria went 0-4 today at Fenway, a familiar sight.

It’s nice to knock off the Tigers like this, but I’d still keep this game in perspective; the Tigers are off to a horrible start, largely because of injuries to Curtis Granderson, Gary Sheffield and Cabrera. They’ll be back.


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