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05/26/07 8:50 PM ET
Notes: Dice-K shrugs off flu
Pitcher feeling better; Francona appreciative of effort
By Ken Daley / Special to MLB.com
ARLINGTON -- Red Sox pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka was feeling better Saturday after having to cut short his Friday night appearance against the Rangers because of a stomach ailment. "He's doing much better," Boston manager Terry Francona said of Matsuzaka, who threw 85 pitches before being stopped by illness. Matsuzaka appeared stricken by an apparent bout of stomach flu in the second inning of his 10-6 victory over Texas. And though he repeatedly became physically ill between innings, he still gutted out five innings to lessen the strain on the bullpen and qualify for his seventh win, tying for the Major League lead. "He had no business being out there, pitching in that game," Francona said. "We've all had the flu, and you don't want to be pitching. You just want to get under the covers and be miserable." Matsuzaka appeared weak but in good spirits when he arrived at the clubhouse late Saturday afternoon, and both the pitcher and manager said they anticipated him making his next scheduled start Wednesday at Fenway Park against the Cleveland Indians. "I still haven't figured out exactly what happened last night," Matsuzaka said through his interpreter. "But, fortunately, I feel better today. "I think, above all else, I need to focus on getting game-ready for my next start. I also feel that I have to be ever cautious about maintaining my health." Matsuzaka (7-2) lost a 4-0 lead when he allowed the Rangers five runs on five hits in the fourth. But after Manny Ramirez's RBI single broke a 5-5 tie in the top of the fifth, Matsuzaka held Texas scoreless in the bottom of the inning to qualify for the win. He ended the inning by blowing a fastball past Frank Catalanotto for his sixth strikeout, stranding the potential tying run at third base. "He still managed to somehow throw the ball 95 mph past Catalanotto in that fifth inning," marveled Francona. "That's just willing yourself to do something." No apologies necessary: Matsuzaka issued a statement to reporters Friday night in which he cited "regret that I ended up being a burden on my teammates" with his shortest outing of the season. Teammates and Francona scoffed at his desire to apologize, impressed instead by his determination to compete as long as he could. "Yeah, big burden," chuckled Francona. "I was going to let him go back out for the sixth until I went to check on him and saw him bending over [in the dugout tunnel]. That was enough for me to get him out of there." But Matsuzaka impressed his new club with the responsibility he clearly feels to the team each time he pitches. "That's probably part of what makes him so special," Francona said. "He could have said, 'Get somebody else out there' in the second inning and we all would have understood. That's not the [Japanese] culture, that's the person. He seems to get it, on a lot of levels." Briefly: Reliever Mike Timlin is scheduled to pitch again Sunday for Triple-A Pawtucket after beginning his rehab assignment with one scoreless inning Friday night. "He said he felt really good, no discomfort," Francona said of the right-hander sidelined since May 3 by shoulder soreness. ... Shortstop Julio Lugo entered Saturday in a 4-for-36 (.111) slump over his last eight games, but his 29 RBIs remain tops among all Major League leadoff hitters. "Evidently, the hits he's getting, he's making the most of them," Francona said. "You look at his production and it's been incredible." ... Matsuzaka became the first Boston rookie to win at least six consecutive decisions since Aaron Sele went 6-0 over eight starts from June 23-Aug. 4, 1993. The last Sox rookie with a longer winning streak was Mike Nagy, who went 7-0 over 12 starts from July 16-Sept. 25, 1969. Up next: Red Sox right-hander Julian Tavarez (3-4, 5.27) will oppose Texas right-hander Kameron Loe (1-4, 6.38) in Sunday's finale of this three-game series at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. First pitch is scheduled for 3:05 p.m. ET.
Ken Daley is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.