BOSTON — The last time Daisuke Matsuzaka got this much attention in a Red Sox uniform was against Boston College on a March evening in 2007.
The difference was expectations.
Back in his first appearance in Fort Myers in 2007 the world expected magic from the $103 million man. Last night, Red Sox fans hoped for five decent innings and, if they were honest, a typical dose of frustration.
Well, they got magic instead in a 4-1 win over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
Dice-K didn't allow a run over six innings, giving up only three hits while striking out five and walking three. Talk about exceeding expectations.
"He was very sharp, especially his fastball," said Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek. "Everything else worked off that. He was around the plate with his fastball and when he does that, his other pitches are that much better."
The fact that Dice-K battled through tough situations, like a man on third with one out, and emerged unscathed, caught the attention of his team and manager.
So did the fact that this was the Angels, who lead the majors with a team batting average of .286.
"Those guys over there, for the numbers they put up tonight, they take some vicious swings," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "One through nine, they're all hitting .300. Stolen bases, home runs, doubles ... like I said, that was a big shot in the arm for us."
Dice-K didn't just look good on the mound.
He looked good, physically. It is believed he lost nearly 20 pounds over the last two months and physically looks a lot like the guy in 2007.
Varitek said it was too early to predict more of the same from Dice-K the rest of the way, but it is not out of the question.