Baseball: Dragons bullpen wastes gutsy Matsuzaka start in loss to Buffaloes

Looking to win back-to-back starts for the first time in nearly four years, Daisuke Matsuzaka was denied when the Orix Buffaloes pounded the Chunichi Dragons’ bullpen in a 5-1 interleague win on Wednesday.

Lacking the location and command he had a week ago, when he earned his first Nippon Professional Baseball win in 12 years, Matsuzaka struggled and survived for six innings of one-hit ball. The 37-year-old walked four but struck out nine, leaning heavily on his cutter and occasionally sniping away with a fastball that maxed out at 143 kilometers per hour (88.8 miles per hour).

Orix ace Chihiro Kaneko (2-4) surrendered a first-inning run at Nagoya Dome when Yohei Oshima tripled with one out and scored on Zoilo Almonte’s sacrifice fly. Matsuzaka walked two in the first inning, but looked a little more relaxed with a lead.

Kaneko, the 2014 Sawamura Award winner and Pacific League MVP, was untouchable after the first, allowing a run on four hits. He struck out four without issuing a walk and earned the win after the Buffaloes erupted for four runs in the eighth off Chunichi’s third pitcher, Hiroshi Suzuki.

Suzuki, the Dragons’ top draft pick in last autumn’s amateur draft, got two outs before a walk, a Stefen Romero single and another walk loaded the bases. Takahiro Okada grounded a single through the box that Suzuki just missed and two runs scored. Ryoichi Adachi doubled in two more to put the game away.

“In the eighth inning, everyone kept that inning alive for me,” Okada said. “When I hit I asked it to get through for a hit and it did. We all wanted to score earlier to make things easier on Kaneko, but I’m glad we could get Kaneko a win.”

Matsuzaka is 2-3 this season with the Central League’s Dragons after pitching only one game the past three seasons with the PL powerhouse SoftBank Hawks. He fell behind in nearly every count until the fifth, when he seemed to find a second wind. He retired the last seven batters he faced, striking out four. But having labored through the first four innings, he had nothing left.

“I gave us a chance to win, but I badly wanted to go another inning,” said Matsuzaka, who threw 114 pitches.

Matsuzaka’s last personal win streak came in September 2013, shortly after he joined the New York Mets.

All – Kyodo News+

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