04/18/07 12:17 AM ET
Matsuzaka kept Jays guessing
Japanese right-hander displayed impressive arsenal
By John Arthur / Special to MLB.com
The much-hyped hurler from Japan struck out 10 and allowed just three hits and three walks over six innings in his third Major League start. Fortunately for the Jays, two of those hits and all three walks came in the fourth inning, allowing Toronto to scrape out two runs and come away with a 2-1 win.
"He probably didn't have his best stuff today," said second baseman Aaron Hill. "A lot of guys came back to the dugout saying, 'He left a pitch up. I should have hit it, but I didn't.' A lot of guys just missed a couple of pitches."
Designated hitter Frank Thomas, who walked once and struck out twice, was impressed with Matsuzaka's performance.
"He's got very good command," he said. "He lost it there in that one inning but pretty much the rest of the time, he put his pitches where he wanted."
Thomas said Matsuzaka's arsenal of pitches kept him guessing.
"No gyro tonight but I saw two very good sliders," Thomas said. "He's got three different breaking balls and I got to see all three of them. He finished me with a nasty slider in my second at-bat."
Vernon Wells, whose infield single started the fourth-inning rally, tried to narrow his focus against Dice-K.
"You kind of have to hit off his fastball," Wells said. "His fastball is so hard, you can't go up there looking for other stuff or he'll throw his fastball by you every time. You try to be as good a hitter as you can, look for the heater and adjust to everything else."
Wells said the Jays succeeded in the fourth by staying patient.
"Guys went up there with a good approach," he said. "A lot of us were swinging at high fastballs and guys went up there that inning and were trying to lay off that stuff. If you're able to do that, it gives you a better chance to hit."
Different Blue Jays reported different styles. Thomas said Matsuzaka's fastball rode up, reminding him of Pedro Martinez. Lyle Overbay, however, said it tended to stay down.
"His fastball stays pretty straight, pretty firm as far as staying on the same plane," said Overbay, who lashed an RBI single in the fourth.
"I took a couple of pitches that I thought were going to be down. I thought they might sink but they just stayed right there. He's got that going for him. It makes it that much harder."
Like many Asian pitchers, Matsuzaka also makes life rough with his halting delivery.
"It's hard to get your timing with him because he's so slow with his delivery," said rookie outfielder Adam Lind.
The wonky windup was also a problem for shortstop Royce Clayton.
"I would rather have him in the stretch," Clayton said. "With the windup, that's where he adds his deception. That's what you really have to get adjusted to."
After hearing and reading so much about Matsuzaka, Wells was happy to see Dice-K with his own eyes.
"Everything changes once you get in the box and get to see exactly what he has," he said. "You kind of have an idea of what he's got, but until he throws it, you never know."
And with 17 more games against their American League East rivals, the Blue Jays can expect to see more of Matsuzaka. Next time, they'll face an even tougher test.
"He's only going to get better," Thomas said. "He can pitch, he knows what he's doing out there. He knows how to get guys chasing, too. That's the sign of a great pitcher."
John Arthur is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.