In his last three starts, Daisuke Matsuzaka was able to measure himself against future Hall of Famers named Randy Johnson, Barry Bonds and Greg Maddux. Now it's back to a familiar foe, but one who is no less impressive.
Wednesday's contest between the Red Sox and Mariners marks Matsuzaka vs. Ichiro Suzuki, part three.
Though Matsuzaka is 0-1 with a 7.50 ERA in two starts against the Mariners, he has been able to hold Ichiro (0-for-5) down. Combining their battles in Japan and the Major Leagues, Ichiro is 8-for-39 against Matsuzaka.
"Ichiro is not going to miss my pitch if I make a mistake," Matsuzaka told Japanese reporters on Monday. "I'm looking forward to facing Ichiro again. But most important, I'm looking forward to trying to win."
Matsuzaka has done just that in his last two starts. After pitching a 1-0 gem against Bonds and the Giants on June 16, Matsuzaka prevailed in a 2-1 duel over Maddux and the Padres in his last start.
Although Matsuzaka has shown the ability to throw a lot of pitches, he hasn't been all that economical. In his last outing, he threw 130 pitches over six innings.
"He's been known and he's made his livelihood over [in Japan] in being able to throw a lot of pitches," said Sox catcher Jason Varitek. "Hopefully we can get those down earlier in the game, so we can get him extended innings later."
Matsuzaka is at least on the bubble of All-Star consideration, as he ranks fourth in strikeouts and is tied for fourth in wins in the American League.Pitching matchup
BOS: RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka (9-5, 4.01 ERA)
Matsuzaka is in a groove. He's given up just five runs over his past four outings, and despite getting a total of four runs of support, he has won his past two starts. Dice-K is 5-3 on the road this season. SEA: LHP Ryan Feierabend (1-2, 8.20 ERA)
On Friday, in just his fifth Major League start, Feierabend was roughed up by the Reds, allowing nine earned runs on six hits in 2 2/3 innings of work, nearly doubling his ERA. He struggled with his command throughout the contest, walking five and yielding two homers. The 21-year-old earned his first big-league win on June 3, allowing four earned runs in 7 1/3 innings against the Rangers. Player to watch
Shortstop Julio Lugo will try to bust out of his 0-for-29 slump. Tickets
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Friday: Red Sox (Tim Wakefield, 7-8, 4.52) vs. Rangers (Robinson Tejeda, 5-7, 6.57), 7:05 p.m. ET
Saturday: Red Sox (Josh Beckett, 11-1, 3.07) vs. Rangers (Kameron Loe, 4-6, 6.02), 7:05 p.m. ET
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.