Nationals spoil Dice-K's return, beat Red Sox 4-2
BOSTON (AP) A year after having reconstructive elbow surgery, Daisuke Matsuzaka made an emotional return to Fenway Park.
In the end, the prevailing emotion was disappointment from Matsuzaka and the slumping Boston Red Sox.
Matsuzaka struck out eight over five innings in his first major-league start since undergoing Tommy John surgery, but struggled at times and the Washington Nationals spoiled his return in a 4-2 win over the Red Sox on Saturday.
"Every time you pitch you want to give your team a chance to win. Losing today was very disappointing," Matsuzaka said through an interpreter. "But I think I did leave some positives for my next start. I definitely think I pitched better than I had been during my rehab assignment."
Matsuzaka (0-1) gave up four runs and five hits, including Adam LaRoche's solo homer in the second, in five innings.
He walked just one, but it was Bryce Harper to lead off the fourth and started a rally as the Nationals built a 4-0 lead.
"What hurt me most today was that one walk," Matsuzaka said. "That's an area that I wish I could take back."
Matsuzaka's return came just one day shy of the one-year anniversary of his surgery. He had eight rehab starts, but said Saturday was completely different.
"There were a lot of emotions going through me throughout this week and today on the mound," he said. "Today, brought back a lot of memories especially from the fans and stadium itself that I've had over the past five years. That really made me appreciate even more all the support I've had throughout my rehab process."
The Red Sox have lost five of six, dropped below .500 (29-30) and are 1-4 on a six-game homestand that concludes Sunday.
Gio Gonzalez pitched 6 1-3 effective innings for the Nationals, who spoiled Matsuzaka's return and are one win away from sweeping a series at Fenway Park.
LaRoche led off the second inning with a homer, Ian Desmond had a two-run single and Michael Morse added an RBI double during a three-run fourth for Washington, which has won the first two of a three-game interleague series.
Gonzalez, May's NL pitcher of the month, allowed two runs, struck out five, walked two and was helped by a pair of solid defensive plays by third baseman Ryan Zimmerman and one by second baseman Danny Espinosa.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia had a pinch-hit, bases-loaded two-run double off reliever Michael Gonzalez in the seventh, cutting it to 4-2, but Gonzalez got the next two batters with runners on first and third.
Tyler Clippard got the final three outs for his seventh save, and second in two days.
Leading 1-0 in the fourth, Washington added three runs off Matsuzaka. Morse hit his double after Harper walked and advanced on Zimmerman's hit-and-run single through a vacant shortstop hole. Desmond followed with his single to right.
The Nationals went ahead when LaRoche homered on the first pitch of the second.
Ortiz had a leadoff double in the second, advanced on a wild pitch when Gio Gonzalez crossed up catcher Jesus Flores and hit him in the midsection with a breaking pitch. Gonzalez then got Will Middlebrooks to ground out and Darnell McDonald on a fly out.
In the sixth, Espinosa made a leaping grab of Adrian Gonzalez's liner in short right. Zimmerman had a backhand stab of Middlebrooks' second-inning grounder.
NOTES: The Red Sox designated OF Marlon Byrd before the game to make room for Matsuzaka. "Marlon came here and kind of saved the day," manager Bobby Valentine said. "He'll probably be with another team. I hope it's not someone on the AL East." Byrd was acquired from the Cubs on April 21 for RHP Michael Bowden and a player to be named, played in 34 games, hitting .270 with one homer and seven RBIs. ... Valentine said of Matsuzaka, "I'd like to get it over. I don't know what to expect. I've never really seen him." ... The Nationals' team bus was stuck in traffic and took nearly 90 minutes to get to the park. Manager Davey Johnson did not talk to the media before the game, sending bench coach Randy Knorr to take his place due to the late arrival. ... Thirty-three cancer survivors cycled around the warning track before the game, kicking off the 33rd annual Pan Mass Challenge, a two-day bike-a-thon that will be held in August to raise money for cancer research and patient care. Player wives Tiffany Ortiz and Holly Beckett are expected to join the Red Sox team of riders.
Updated June 9, 2012