PHILADELPHIA (AP) — With his defense making stellar plays behind him on one hard-hit ball after another, Daisuke Matsuzaka moved closer and closer to a no-hitter.
And then Juan Castro sent a soft looper into shallow left field. Just like that, it was over.
Matsuzaka took a no-hitter into the eighth inning, losing his bid on Castro’s bloop single with two outs, and the Boston Red Sox beat the Philadelphia Phillies 5-0 on Saturday night.
“When I saw it fall in I was a little bit disappointed, but I didn’t let it drag on and I focused on the next hitter,” Matsuzaka said through a translator.
Boston made several outstanding plays on well-struck balls, but it was Castro’s soft single over shortstop that finally dropped. Matsuzaka retired Shane Victorino to end the eighth and Daniel Bard worked a perfect ninth to finish the one-hitter.
“He was throwing a heck of a game. I was just trying to make contact,” Castro said. “I was just fortunate to get a hit.”
Castro, filling in for injured shortstop Jimmy Rollins, looped a 3-1 pitch just out of Marco Scutaro’s reach. The shortstop lunged with his glove and tumbled to the turf, but the ball dropped cleanly in short left field.
“I think I was close but haven’t seen the replay,” Scutaro said, then added a joke: “I know the whole country of Japan hates me. Sorry, sorry. My bad.”
Matsuzaka (3-1) struck out five and walked four in his longest outing of the year. The right-hander was making his fifth start after beginning the season on the disabled list with a neck strain.
“That was fun to watch,” Boston manager Terry Francona said. “I thought he was great the whole game. That’s as relaxed as we’ve seen him.”
Matsuzaka has never pitched a shutout in the majors. His only complete game came on May 14, 2007, against Detroit, in his rookie season after coming over from Japan.
He got plenty of help from his defense in this one.
Chase Utley ripped a liner in the first inning, but was robbed of a hit on a leaping catch by Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia. Utley also drove the ball to deep left-center in the fourth, but Jeremy Hermida made a running catch at the base of the wall in front of the 374-foot sign.
In the sixth, Scutaro ranged to his left and made a strong play to retire Placido Polanco and end the inning. Matsuzaka also made a fine play by beating Victorino to first base by a step after taking the toss from David Ortiz on a grounder to first.
Matsuzaka ended the seventh by snaring Jayson Werth’s sharp line drive that appeared headed to center field for a hit. The pitcher paused for a second after making the excuse-me catch, appearing to look with surprise at his glove.
“I saw the ball so I put my glove out but I didn’t actually think I would make the catch,” Matsuzaka said. “It was at that point that my teammates thought maybe I had a chance.”
Said Francona: “I don’t know if it was self-defense or if he’s that good. It seemed like the stars were aligned.”
Boston continued its excellent defense in the eighth when third baseman Adrian Beltre dove to his left to rob Carlos Ruiz of a hit on a low line drive, then doubled off Raul Ibanez, who had walked, at first. That left Red Sox players in the dugout shaking their heads and smiling.
“His ball was moving, especially his fastball,” Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel said. “And their defense was real good.”
However, on the next batter, Scutaro came up inches short of an over-the-shoulder grab on Castro’s soft looper.
“It was pretty close,” Castro said, “and the way they were making plays I was thinking they were going to make another nice one.”
Boston chased Philadelphia starter Kyle Kendrick (2-2) in the fifth with four runs on five hits, including RBI doubles by David Ortiz and Adrian Beltre. Kendrick went 4 2-3 innings, allowing five runs and eight hits.
Previously, Matsuzaka’s longest outing this season was seven innings in a 6-1 win over Toronto on May 11. He allowed nine hits and seven earned runs in 4 2-3 innings in his last start, May 17 at Yankee Stadium, and had been tagged for 19 earned runs in his first four games this year.
Philadelphia played without Rollins, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list after re-injuring his right calf in Friday’s 5-1 victory over Boston. Rollins had missed 29 games with a right calf strain before returning to the lineup Monday.
NOTES: Matsuzaka singled in the second inning, marking his first career regular-season hit. He had been 0 for 8 with four strikeouts in the regular season. He did get a hit in the 2007 World Series. … Jacoby Ellsbury led off and played center field, marking his return to Boston’s lineup after a 37-day stint on the DL with broken ribs. Ellsbury went 0 for 4 with a walk and a run scored. OF Jonathan Van Every was designated for assignment.