Sluggish Matsuzaka outlasted by Hamels, Phillies

Sluggish Matsuzaka outlasted by Hamels, Phillies

August 29, 2013, 12:30 am
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NEW YORK -- It’s pretty unusual for a team to win a game handily like the Phillies did Wednesday night at Citi Field and still feel frustrated about the opposing starting pitcher.

The Phillies knocked Daisuke Matsuzaka out of the game after just 4 1/3 innings. They rapped out six hits, drew four walks and had two batters get hit by pitches in the 6-2 victory (see story), all while forcing Matsuzaka to pile up the pitch count.

And yet the Phillies were still shaking their heads about facing the veteran Japanese pitcher after the game.

The reason? Matsuzaka worked so slow.

Really sloooooooooooow.

“I'm glad I play it, but I wouldn't be watching it,” said Cole Hamels about pitching against Matsuzaka on Wednesday night.

Matsuzaka threw 110 pitches in his 4 1/3 innings and was over 80 pitches after three innings. He loaded the bases with one out in the second and third, giving up just two hits through three innings, and the Phillies still were unable to score.

To get through two innings, Matsuzaka was so slow and deliberate that the game was more than an hour old. And as the game wore on, the Phillies got more and more frustrated by their inability to cash in.

“That’s part of his effectiveness,” manager Ryne Sandberg said. “It was a little bit frustrating and kind of came into play with the bases loaded. He’s known for getting out of situations like that with the way he comes slowly to home plate. His other effectiveness is just being effectively wild. Little frustrating. That was in the second and the third, having the bases loaded with less than two outs and getting nothing out of it.”

It wasn’t just the Phillies hitters who were frustrated with Matsuzaka. Hamels had to guard against lethargy during the long innings waiting to get back on the mound with the sloth’s pace that Matsuzaka kept.

Because of it, Hamels said he had to guard against pushing the pace to counteract Matsuzaka’s deliberateness.

“It's tough,” Hamels said. “It doesn't happen all the time. It's nice to get in a good rhythm. In games like this, you have to make sure your warm-up pitches are right on par. It's a lot of self motivating and trying to stay in the game as much as possible. It's easier said than done.”

Matsuzaka’s luck ran out in the fifth when the Phillies loaded the bases for a third inning with one out and took a 2-1 lead when John Mayberry Jr. was hit by a pitch to force in a run. Two batters later, Cole Hamels hit a two-out, bases-loaded single to drive in two runs off reliever Robert Carson.

With Matsuzaka gone and a few more runs on the board, the pace of the game returned to respectability.

Better yet, Hamels’ pitching line and his won-lost record is beginning to get back to respectability, too. In completing seven innings for the seventh straight game, Hamels will finish August with a 2-0 record and 2.00 ERA. The Phils’ lefty also has allowed two or fewer earned runs in nine of his last 11 starts and has pitched at least five innings in 70 straight starts.

Only James Shields (72) has a longer streak than Hamels.

“He’s pitched well all year, but seems to be catching some breaks,” Sandberg said. “He gets himself a base hit that drives in two. Solid defense behind him and [Carlos Ruiz] with a home run added cushion, so those are the things you need to win. In a lot of ways, he’s pitching the same but in the second half of the season, his command pitches much better allowing him to stay ahead of hitters then mixing his off-speed pitches for outs.”

Hamels is 4-2 with a 2.25 ERA in 11 starts dating back to July 4. The Phillies were 2-14 in his first 16 starts. Talk about frustrating.

Regardless, it appears as if Hamels has turned the page.

The Phillies and Mets finish the four-game series on Thursday afternoon when Ethan Martin (2-2, 6.33) takes on right-hander Carlos Torres (2-2, 2.96).