(AP Photo via Boston.com)
(props to Sammy for that comment, which I've now ripped off in the form of a title)
He was sharp. He was brilliant. He was dominant.
He was as advertised.
In 108 pitches (74 for strikes) of work today over seven innings, Matsuzaka gave up a lone earned run and racked up ten strikeouts while walking one. His pitches were filthy. His demeanor was icy. I don't know about you, but I'm still a goner.
Earlier today I had a chat with Edw. about the pitching staff, and we diverged from one another on nearly everyone but Papelbon (for whom we both still have a question mark at this point).
"Don't over hype Matsazuka or you'll be disappointed," he typed, surprising me. "He's a #4 starter, not a Cy Young or #3, I guess..."
We chatted back and forth on the topic, and I made a case for Matsuzaka while he listened patiently but gave no indication as to whether or not he was inclined to change his mind. He is an elusive one.
"With us in opposite directions, one of us is bound to be right... right?" he typed.
After that, I began to get antsy. Maybe I'd drunk a bit too deeply of the Kool-Aid so far. Maybe I'd been swayed by just a few spring training pitches. I'd need to see Daisuke again to tell for sure...
I had a phone appointment at 6:30 tonight, but I didn't want to make it from my office and then have to drive home, because if there's one thing I've learned, it's that there will always be traffic on 128. I was still thinking the game was tonight, you see, when I decided to leave the office around quarter of 3, zip home and resume working from there, the better not to miss Daisuke's first innings beginning at 8 o'clock tonight.
I know no one's going to believe me. The only hard evidence I have to offer in my defense is that the way it worked out, by the time I realized the game had started at 2, I had already missed his first few innings...if I was going to take off to watch the game, I'd have at least made sure to see the beginning.
So, as things turned out, I came in right in the middle of his nine batters in a row retired, and got home in time to see Alex Gordon single to left while Manny continued to dog it in the field. I'm not normally on the Manny-hating bandwagon, but he has been completely dragging ass out there this week. Meanwhile I had to work while this was going on, so I kept the TV on quietly in the background while I clacked away at the keyboard. Then I got engrossed in work, though I remember thinking, "Kansas City fans sure do boo a lot."
The commotion of the wild pitch on which Ortiz scored drew my attention, and I also watched JD Drew cross the plate for the fourth Sox run. Then Romero was pitching, and then finally I came to a point where I could take a break and watch Papelbon.
So for all intents and purposes I missed Matsuzaka's performance today.
But by now I've seen highlights seven or eight times, read several enraptured write-ups and watched Dennis Eckersley wrack his brain for new synonyms for "awesome" on the postgame show, in addition to watching Jonathan purse his lips and point his glove toward each batter as if to say, the bell tolls for thee in that perfect 9th inning I did get to pay full attention to.
Yes, it's only Game 3, and it's the Kansas City Royals, who are a far cry, lineup-wise, from, say, the Yankees. But with all the boilerplate caveats out of the way, let's call a spade a spade here and admit it was just utterly, completely, undeniably awesome. And that it might open us to ridicule later, but for now, collectively, as a Nation, we are geeking the hell out.
After the game, I watched Matsuzaka while he stood in front of the camera with Tina Cervasio and then conducted a press conference for both Japanese and American journalists in front of what it seemed like 100 microphones, and through it all, as he had been on the mound, he was utterly calm. Casual. Unshaken.
On the other hand, his performance today was amazing--on and off the mound--but there are lots of qualifiers that begin with the word "for." It was amazing...for the first game...for his Major League rookie debut...for his first start in a Boston uniform...for his first game in America...
We have not yet begun to realize the depths of what we have, is what I'm saying. Practically any other human being on earth might have let some aspect of today get to him--the crush of press and fans, the pressure to succeed, the homesickness that must be settling in by now--but Matsuzaka barely seemed to have broken a sweat.
As Bill Simmons put it:
He's out of the same mold as Tiger, Kobe and Phil Ivey -- all business, totally methodical, more than a little cocky. You can't shake him.
I couldn't help but be reminded of Pedro -- perhaps post-peak Pedro, when his fastball was no longer 97, but he was still an artist.
Edw.'s gut tells him differently, but this is what mine tells me: We've just barely scratched the surface here. We ain't seen nothing yet.