NAGOYA – Former flame-thrower Daisuke Matsuzaka showed Sunday that execution and location can be a winning combination as he pitched the Chunichi Dragons to a 6-1 victory over the Hanshin Tigers.
The 37-year-old former major leaguer located his fastball and cutter well and mixed in some nasty tight sliders and changeups to hold the Tigers to a run on three hits over six innings.
Matsuzaka (2-3) racked up seven strikeouts, six of them swinging, while walking none and hitting one. He entered the game having walked 14 batters in 20⅓ this season.
“To be honest, I don’t think my form was all that good. In the few games I’ve pitched this year, the cut fastball has been the one pitch I’ve been able to throw well,” Matsuzaka said. “Today I was able to throw everything off of that and it worked out.”
The veteran right-hander also went 2-for-3 at the plate, a hit total the Tigers were unable to match until the top of the sixth inning, when they finally pushed a run across the board.
The Dragons exploited the wildness of Hanshin rookie Hiroto Saiki, who hit a batter to load the bases in the first before walking in the game’s first run. Nobumasa Fukuda then singled in two more.
“Getting that early lead really made it easy for me to get into the game,” Matsuzaka said.
Saiki, pitching in his fourth career game, was born on Nov. 7, 1998, 13 days before three teams named Matsuzaka as their first-round pick in Nippon Professional Baseball’s amateur draft. Matsuzaka signed with the Seibu Lions and won 108 games for them until he moved to the Boston Red Sox in 2007.
Yota Kyoda, the Central League’s 2017 rookie of the year, sparked the Dragons’ offense, going 4-for-4 with two doubles, a sacrifice fly, two runs and two RBIs. The shortstop also saved a run with a good stop on a ball up the middle.
Saiki (0-1) allowed five runs over five innings on 12 hits, two walks and a hit batsman. The right-hander struck out five.
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