First home game a prelude to Matsuzaka's debut Print
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Monday, 09 April 2007 15:43
MLB Headline News

 BOSTON (AP) -The Red Sox open their home season Tuesday with plenty of fanfare, just a warmup for the excitement that will fill Fenway Park one day later.
That's when Daisuke Matsuzaka throws his first pitch in a game in Boston. And he'll be throwing it to another Japanese star who already has made it big in the United States, Seattle leadoff hitter Ichiro Suzuki.
``It's always great to get home,'' said Jason Varitek, who will catch the rookie right-hander.
The Red Sox take a 3-3 record into their Fenway opener after series in Kansas City and Texas.
Before Tuesday's game against the Mariners, the 1967 Boston team that won the AL pennant, a feat known as the ``Impossible Dream,'' will be honored. One year earlier the Red Sox finished ninth.
Gary Bell, a pitcher on that pennant-winning team 40 years ago, isn't surprised by the number of Japanese players in the majors.
``Back when we were playing, I think the general feeling was that they might not be quite good enough to play over here,'' he said Monday, ``and that's surely not the truth. I mean, my gosh, look at the guys who are out here now.''
Boston has another rookie pitcher from Japan, lefty reliever Hideki Okajima.
In the opener, Josh Beckett will try to build on his first start of the year, an impressive 7-1 victory at Kansas City last Wednesday. Jeff Weaver will start for Seattle, which almost certainly will play for the first time since last Thursday - since no precipitation is in the forecast.
The Mariners series in Cleveland was postponed for four straight days by snow.
``I can't think of anything worse than what happened in Cleveland. They've got to be miserable stacking up games like that,'' Boston manager Terry Francona said. ``The pitching will be completely different. I hope it bothers them. But who knows. I know if it was us, I'd be climbing the walls.''
The Red Sox rotation has stayed on schedule with some impressive performances.
Curt Schilling rebounded from a poor outing on opening day in Kansas City with a 3-2 win Sunday at Texas in which he allowed one run and four hits in seven innings. Tim Wakefield suffered from a lack of support in his 2-0 loss to the Rangers. In his first game, Matsuzaka struck out 10 and gave up just one run and six hits in seven innings last Thursday in a 4-1 win over the Royals.
But the batters have struggled with a .237 average and only three homers.
``Obviously, our offense is not clicking,'' Schilling said, ``and I think not clicking in an extreme way and for us to come off of that and win three of the six games is probably a good thing ... considering where we could have been.''
David Ortiz emerged from a slow start Sunday with two homers in support of Schilling.
The Red Sox shouldn't need much offense if Matsuzaka pitches Wednesday the way he did in his first major-league game. He'll be opposed by Felix Hernandez, another young pitcher coming off a brilliant 2007 debut.
Hernandez dominated Oakland in a 4-0 win in Seattle's season opener April 2, giving up three hits and striking out 12 in eight innings.
But if the Red Sox have the lead going into the ninth, another outstanding pitcher probably will be on the mound. Closer Jonathan Papelbon got his second save Sunday with two strikeouts in the ninth.
``We took care of business by winning half of these games on the road,'' he said. ``Hopefully, we can go home and win six or seven games in a row.''


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