With every pitch, Boston's Daisuke Matsuzaka grew more confident this would finally be the night he would again throw a complete game.
Keep trying Dice-K.
"If I couldn't throw a complete game today I don't know when I'm going to do it," Matsuzaka said through an interpreter.
Even though Matsuzuka had to leave in the eighth inning, he continued his masterful pitching away from Fenway Park, as the Red Sox beat the Seattle Mariners 4-2 last night.
Matsuzaka (11-1) was dominant for the first seven innings, scattering two hits before Seattle finally got to him in the eighth, ending any hopes for the second complete game of his career.
After dropping five straight on the road, the Red Sox seem to have found a remedy against the lowly Mariners, who fell a season-worst 24 games under .500 (38-62) with their fourth straight loss. First it was Jon Lester's gem on Monday night, then Dice-K improving to 5-0 with a 2.20 ERA in eight starts away from Fenway Park.
"I think the one thing we've noticed with Lester and Dice-K, the rest has done them some good," Boston manager Terry Francona said. "But when they've gone out in the eighth, the ups and downs seem to have gotten to them a little bit which I think is understandable."
Matsuzaka's scoreless innings streak ended at 24 1-3. Dice-K's countryman, Ichiro Suzuki, lined an RBI double over center fielder Coco Crisp with one out in the eighth for the first run allowed by Matsuzaka since the first inning against Tampa Bay on July 2 when Evan Longoria hit a two-out RBI single. Matsuzaka had not allowed an earned run in his previous two starts.
"Facing off against Ichiro I wanted to make good pitches to good spots," Matsuzaka said.
Jose Lopez followed the double with an RBI single to score Suzuki and knock out Matsuzaka, who walked three and struck out six. Hideki Okajima got the final two outs of the eighth and Jonathan Papelbon pitched the ninth for his 30th save in 34 chances.
"If our starters get us deep like that we should be OK," Francona said. "Sometimes your pitching gives your offense time to kind of get straightened out. If we get deep in games on a consistent basis we should be fine."
Boston's offense got a jolt from the start thanks to J.D. Drew. His 18th homer sent with two outs in the first sent Matsuzaka to the mound with a 1-0 lead.
Drew jumped on a a 3-2 pitch from Seattle starter R.A. Dickey, and the homer barely eluded Suzuki, who slightly misjudged his leap at the wall and watched the homer plop into the glove of a fan in the first row.
Boston added three runs in the fifth, started by Jacoby Ellsbury's bunt single and Dustin Pedroia's ringing liner that left a plume of chalk as it landed on the left-field foul line. It was Pedroia's 23rd straight road game with a hit, and he has a hit in 24 of his last 25 games overall. Drew and rookie Jed Lowrie added sacrifice flies in the inning around Mike Lowell's RBI double.
"We had some tough games against (the Angels), and Lester comes in and slams the door and Dice-K follows in his footsteps," Drew said. "The offense just had to score a few runs."
Seattle's only significant challenge to Matsuzaka appeared to come in the fourth when Raul Ibanez led off with a walk and Jose Vidro lined a single to center. Adrian Beltre helped out Dice-K by weakly grounding into a double play and Jeremy Reed grounded out to end the inning with Ibanez left at third.
Otherwise, Matsuzaka set down 12 of the next 13 batters after Vidro's single until rookie Brian LaHair singled leading off the eighth with his first major league hit. Suzuki then doubled, his fourth career hit off Dice-K.
"We have to come out and put a little more pressure on the other ball club," Seattle manager Jim Riggleman said. "(Matsuzaka) was on top of his game and we didn't get to him until late."
Dickey (2-5) pitched 6 1-3 innings, allowing nine hits and four runs, and he didn't strike out a batter for the first time in his eight starts this season. Dickey has just one win as a starter since entering the rotation on a regular basis in the middle of June.
This program aired on July 23, 2008. The audio for this program is not available.