[April 25, 2014]NEW YORK — Catcher Anthony Recker
wasn't surprised Thursday afternoon when right-handed pitcher Daisuke
Matsuzaka walked to home plate to retrieve his mask after Recker caught
the final out of the New York Mets' 4-1 victory over the St. Louis
Cardinals at Citi Field.
"'Oh, he's over there, picking up my mask,'" Recker recalled
thinking to himself. "He's a nice guy. So I get it."
Everything else about the first save of Matsuzaka's varied and
vagabond major league career came as a surprise to everyone
Matsuzaka, who had made just one relief appearance in his first 124
big league appearances, continued his stunning and rapid ascent up
the Mets' bullpen order by retiring all three batters he faced in
the ninth inning to preserve the Mets' third victory in the
four-game series against the Cardinals.
"He's been around for so long and he's pitched in Fenway and (in)
some of the biggest games," Recker said. "It doesn't surprise me
that he can stay cool and calm."
Even in the midst of the most unique experience of his big league
"It's a different type of pressure from when I start," Matsuzaka
said through an interpreter after his first save at any level since
2000, when he was pitching for Seibu of Japan's Pacific League. "But
I definitely enjoyed it today."
Matsuzaka, who lost the fifth starter's competition to right-hander
Jenrry Mejia in spring training, was recalled from Triple-A Las
Vegas April 16 and has allowed one run and struck out eight in 5 1/3
innings over four relief appearances, all of which have come in the
Mets' last six games.
"I didn't know how he was going to take to it," Mets manager Terry
Collins said. "When he came back up he knew he was going to have to
pitch out of the bullpen and he said he would do whatever we needed
him to do. And I think the more he's out there, the more confident
he is going to become."
Matsuzaka got the final out of the seventh on Wednesday, when
right-hander Kyle Farnsworth nearly blew a two-run lead in the ninth
inning of a 3-2 win. Collins said Thursday morning that Farnsworth
was available but acknowledged after the game that he wanted to use
Matsuzaka as the closer if a save situation presented itself.
Collins, who said Farnsworth remains the Mets' primary closer, was
one of the few people in the dugout to know his plans Thursday
afternoon. Matsuzaka said he expected Farnsworth to get the ball in
the ninth while Recker said he didn't realize Matsuzaka was pitching
until he trotted to the mound.
"I didn't even know he was closing until he came into the game,"
Recker said. "I was like 'Oh, Daisuke's going to close.'"
Matsuzaka needed just 15 pitches to dispatch of right fielder Allen
Craig, second baseman Daniel Descalso and pinch hitter Peter Bourjos
to close out the win for right-hander Bartolo Colon.
Matsuzaka and Colon were rotation-mates in Boston in 2008, when
Matsuzaka went 18-3 with a 2.90 ERA in the second year of a six-year
$52 million deal. But Matsuzaka battled numerous injuries for the
remainder of his stay in Boston, including an elbow injury that
required Tommy John surgery and was just 17-22 with a 5.53 ERA in
the final four seasons with the Red Sox.
After making 19 starts with Cleveland's Triple-A affiliate last
season, Matsuzaka requested his release and signed with the Mets,
for whom he went 3-3 with a 4.42 ERA in seven starts. But he went
3-0 with a 1.31 ERA and issued just six free passes in 20 2/3
innings and has picked up where he left off, albeit in a surprising
"Going out in the seventh or eighth is definitely different than
going out in the ninth for a save," Matsuzaka said.
Colon evened his record at 2-2 by allowing one run on four hits and
no walks while striking out a season-high nine over seven innings.
The Cardinals got just two runners into scoring position against
Second baseman Daniel Murphy had two RBI for the Mets (12-10) while
centerfielder Chris Young hit a solo homer.
Catcher Tony Cruz had an RBI double for the Cardinals (12-11), who
outhit the Mets 31-22 this week but stranded 15 runners in scoring
position. St. Louis has scored just 13 runs in its last seven games.
"We know we're not playing the way we can and should play,"
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said.
Right-hander Lance Lynn fell to 4-1 this season — and 12-1 in 14
career starts in March and April — after giving up three runs (two
earned) on four hits and two walks while striking out nine over 6
NOTES: Two of the five 40-year-olds in baseball were in the lineup
for the Mets: RHP Bartolo Colon and RF Bobby Abreu. For Abreu, it
was his first start in the majors since July 25, 2012, when he
played left field for the Los Angeles Dodgers against the Cardinals.
He went 1-for-3 with a double on Thursday. ... Cardinals C Tony Cruz
has started each of the last three times RHP Lance Lynn has taken
the mound for St. Louis. Manager Mike Matheny said Cruz isn't Lynn's
personal catcher but that he is pairing the two to ensure some time
off for All-Star C Yadier Molina during the Cardinals' current
stretch of 20 games in 20 days. The Cardinals' next off-day is May
1. ... The Mets and Cardinals each gave the day off to a slumping
newcomer. Mets RF Curtis Granderson, who is hitting .125 in 72
at-bats, sat in favor of Abreu. Cardinals SS Jhonny Peralta, who is
hitting .151 in 73 at-bats, was replaced by Daniel Descalso. Both
Granderson and Peralta signed four-year deals last December.