BROOKLYN, N.Y. – In front of an over capacity crowd of 8,005 at MCU Park in Coney Island, Daisuke Matsuzaka tossed five scoreless innings for the Brooklyn Cyclones to earn a win in his third rehab start since going on the disabled list with right elbow inflammation July 26.
The Cyclones (36-29) defeated the Staten Island Yankees 2-0 and remain two games ahead of the Connecticut Tigers in the New York-Penn League Wild Card race. It was Brooklyn’s ninth shutout victory of the summer.
The Japanese right-hander struck out seven batters while allowing two hits – both in the first inning – and two walks. He threw 72 pitches – 51 for strikes.
“I’m sure the Mets are going to be very pleased with how he threw, his command, his stuff, and most important of all when he came out after 72 pitches, he said he felt great,” said Cyclones’ manager Tom Gamboa.
Dice-K said there were no problems with his elbow and that he wanted to use all of his pitches in different situations.
“I just wanted to go out there and pitch well and give the team a chance to win,” said Matsuzaka through a translator.
It seemed that every batter he faced was behind in the count, which was something he was conscious of coming into this start.
“That’s definitely something that I wanted to do today,” he said. “In my previous experience in rehab starts, the guys (opposing hitters) have tended to be pretty aggressive, so I kept that in mind and wanted to attack them early.”
With his start, Matsuzaka became the 20th Major Leaguer to rehab with the Cyclones and the second to do so this season, with Dillon Gee making two rehab starts in Brooklyn earlier this summer. Dice-K joined Tsuyoshi Shinjo (2001) and Kazuo Matsui (2005) as the only Japanese-born players to rehab with the Cyclones.
Matsuzaka ran into a bit of trouble in the top of the first inning, giving up a leadoff double. The bases wound up being loaded with only one out, but Dice-K retired the next two batters via strikeout en route to striking out the side.
The top of the second saw him strikeout the side again, but he only needed 11 pitches to do so unlike his 27-pitch first inning.
He only threw nine pitches to retire the side in the top of the third. After retiring 10 straight batters, he surrendered a walk in the fourth but then retired the side in order in the fifth to conclude his outing.
The Cyclones’ offense rallied at just the right time to get Dice-K the win. Brooklyn first baseman Pedro Perez lined a one-out double to right center, and the next batter, All-Star right fielder Michael Bernal, stroked an RBI double down the right field line to give the Cyclones a 1-0 lead.
The following inning, Cyclones’ second baseman Tyler Moore plated an insurance run with a two-out RBI single up the middle.
Three lefty Cyclones relievers – Brad Wieck, Kelly Secrest and Shane Bay – combined for four scoreless innings in relief of Matsuzaka. The All-Star Bay is now 14-for-14 in save opportunities this season.
“For our team, it was huge,” Gamboa said. “From a development standpoint, we have 17 pitchers on our staff here and for them to get a chance to see an established big leaguer, for them to get a chance to watch him warm up, how he goes about his business, how he pitches, his balance point on the rubber and his ability to take the sting out of a hitter’s swing, I think it was good for our pitchers to see.”
As for Matsuzaka’s return to the big club, he said the decision is not up to him but that he feels ready. In fact, he said he felt ready after his previous start in Binghamton. He said he’s not sure whether he’ll start or come out of the bullpen when he returns, but with a big smile on his face, he made it known that he prefers to start.
The Cyclones remain home to open a three-game weekend set against the Tri-City Valleycats, the Single-A short season affiliate of the Houston Astros. Right-hander Martires Arias takes the bump for Brooklyn at 7 p.m.
Click here to view the complete box score from this game.
All photos by Jim Mancari.