EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

April 2, 2008

Ace-K to the rescue


Bill Burt

We didn't get too down after Daisuke Matsuzaka's less than stellar performance in Japan — really two bad innings.

We won't get too high after last night's Cy Young-like effort.

But you have to admit that last night was in the $100 million category. Dice-K was a magician.

Before anyone says it was only the Oakland Athletics, I say yesterday was only April Fool's Day.

Dice-K looked, for lack of a better description, like an ace. Which means he didn't waste pitches; his fastball had movement; he didn't walk a batter; and he struck out nine.

It wouldn't have mattered if Johnny Damon, Derek Jeter, Bobby Abreu and Alex Rodriguez were the top four hitters. Dice-K was on.

This is not anything to put in the bank or chisel in granite, but it is a good sign. It's a sign that maybe his rocky start in Japan was more a case of nerves than another repeat performance from 2007.

With Josh Beckett expected to be back this week — and back in Cy Young form — Dice-K may determine the Red Sox' destiny in 2008.

If he is anywhere near where he was a year ago, giving up a run every other inning, the Sox not dealing for Johan Santana will look, at least in the short term, like a bad decision.

But if last night can be more the rule than the exception, then Josh Beckett will have some security behind him this season and especially in October.

Dice-K has allowed only three runs and four hits in 112/3 innings. He also has 15 strikeouts and today is only April 2.

Last night was a typical Red Sox game from a year ago — well-pitched, a couple of key hits and the bullpen finishing the job. It really was vintage.

Dice-K, though, stole the show.

He looked like a superstar ... for a day. Next Tuesday it will get a little more interesting for the Red Sox' newest Cy Young Award candidate. He will likely face the hard-hitting Detroit Tigers in the home opener at Fenway.

It's only a few days into April and already it feels like baseball never left.

You can e-mail Bill Burt at bburt@eagletribune.com.

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Red Sox 2, Athletics 1

The story: Daisuke Matsuzaka (1 run, 62/3 innings, 2 hits, 9 K's, 0 walks), Hideki Okajima (1 shutout inning) and Jonathan Papelbon (11/3 shutout innings, second save) stole the show.

Kevin from heaven: Kevin Youkilis went 3 for 4 and scored both runs.

Close but no cigar: Jason Varitek smacked what looked to be a two-run homer but it was ruled a double.

Up next: Boston at Oakland, today, 3:35 p.m.

Pitchers: Jon Lester (0-1, 9.00 ERA) vs. Rich Harden (1-0, 1.50 ERA)