Daisuke Matsuzaka has had a season of ups and downs pitching for the Columbus Clippers and Cleveland Indians. He started the year in spring training hoping to make the major league roster, but was put in the starting rotation for the Columbus Clippers instead. While he struggled at times and has been on the disabled list this season, Matsuzaka has seemed to find his groove and is pitching well.
Over his past two games, Matsuzaka has given up just five hits and two runs, while striking out 12 batters over 14 innings. Over the course of his last 10 games, Matsuzaka has pitched six games where he allowed only one earned run and never pitched less then five innings in any of those starts.
“Daisuke has really been pitching well lately,” Columbus manager Chris Tremie said. “He is throwing the ball well and has been a big part of us getting back into our winning ways.”
The statistics seem to back up Tremie when looking at the Clippers and their recent winning. Over the past three games Matsuzaka has pitched, he has earned wins in all three of those starts, with the Clippers able to win in seven out of his ten most recent starts.
While Matsuzaka has been pitching well over the past month, two of his best games of the season have come in his two most recent games. Matsuzaka pitched on Aug. 3 against the Toledo Mud Hens in a game the Clippers won 5-1. Matsuzaka started the game off strong, getting back-to-back swinging strike outs before inducing an easy ground out to set the Mud Hens down in order to start the game. The second inning saw the first base runner of the day against Matsuzaka, a leadoff walk.
Matsuzaka however, was able to quickly come back and a two-pitch pop fly and a two pitch ground out before the runner was caught stealing. After a single was easily erased in the third inning by two ground ball outs, Matsuzaka gave up his only run of the game on back-to-back doubles to lead off the fourth inning. After giving up two doubles, Matsuzaka settled in and was able to set down the next 12 straight batters he faced. His final stat line was seven innings pitched, only three hits, one walk, one earned run and seven strikeouts while earning the win.
Matsuzaka carried that momentum into his next start, an August 8 game at home against the Lousiville Bats. The Clippers were able to win the game 9-3 and were never truly in any form of doubt thanks to the great pitching of Matsuzaka. The game started off poorly, with Matsuzaka giving up a leadoff double on a 1-0 count. Matsuzaka however was not rattled, getting two first pitch ground outs before ending the inning on an easy pop fly to right field on a changeup that badly fooled the batter. The second inning saw Matsuzaka walk a batter but also saw a three pitch strike out, a pop fly that the batter was badly behind on Matsuzaka’s fastball and a two-pitch ground out.
The only runs given up by Matsuzaka were in the third inning on a walk followed up by a two-out single. The good news however, was that after the two out single, Matsuzaka did not allowed another hit the entire game and only allowed one more base runner on a hit-by-pitch. Overall Matsuzaka was weaving in and out of the strike zone, throwing 104 pitches overall with 64 being strikes, but was able to stay in control enough to get five strike outs compared to only two walks. Overall his final stat line was seven innings pitched, with one earned run, two hits, two hits and five strikeouts.
“Matsuzaka was great tonight for us,” Tremie said. “Having him turn out a great performance like this, right after his great start in his last game, is always a great thing. He is absolutely capable of throwing games like this where he can shut down the opposing offense.”
Overall Matsuzaka was probably planning on spending the year pitching for the Indians but has not seemed to dwell on the fact he is pitching in Columbus. While he has looked solid during most points this season, earning a 3.61 ERA, Matsuzaka has pitched great as of late, with a 1.93 ERA over his last six starts. During those six starts, Matsuzaka has a 5.14:1 strikeout to walk ratio and a WHIP of only .9286.
While Matsuzaka at times can be somewhat of a streaky pitcher, it seems that he has overcome any issues the plagued him early in the year and has really hit his stride lately. With a pitcher like Matsuzaka who can pitch a solid number of innings and has past major league experience, it is not a stretch to say that Matsuzaka still has a solid chance of playing at the MLB level at some point in the not so distant future if he can keep throwing like he is now.