ALCS Notebook

For Dice-K, Game 7 Is the One

By Barry Svrluga and Dave Sheinin
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, October 22, 2007

BOSTON, Oct. 21 -- In the aftermath of Daisuke Matsuzaka's loss last week in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series, a parade of Boston Red Sox teammates stopped to console him and promise they would give him a chance to redeem himself later in the series.

That time was Sunday night, as Matsuzaka took the mound for a decisive Game 7 at Fenway Park, and delivered five sound innings in the Red Sox's 11-2 victory that sent the team into the World Series.

"The team kept telling me to get ready to pitch in Game 7," Matsuzaka said through an interpreter. "I just wanted to respond as best I could to my teammates."

The Red Sox went to great lengths to deliver Matsuzaka to this moment -- the months of scouting in Japan, the record "posting" fee of $51.1 million to his Japanese team, the unannounced cross-country trip executives made to agent Scott Boras's office during the intense negotiations, the $52 million shelled out on top of the posting fee to get Matsuzaka signed, the language lessons for key Red Sox personnel.

His performance Sunday night helped justify that effort, although Matsuzaka vowed to be even better in the World Series.

"I'm not 100 percent satisfied with my pitching today," he said. "I want to address some things in my next outing. Not to make a big deal out of it, but the world's biggest stage is waiting for us, and I'd like to see what I can do."

Back on Loan

Boston adores departed members of the 2004 Red Sox -- the group that brought the city its first World Series title in 86 years .

But it was still a bit bizarre that the Red Sox chose former first baseman-designated hitter Kevin Millar to throw out the ceremonial first pitch Sunday night.

Yes, Millar was, in some ways, the face of the 2004 Red Sox and their care-free ways. But he is a current member of the Baltimore Orioles, who compete in the AL East against the Red Sox. Couldn't such blatant support of his former team be perceived as disrespectful?

"I don't worry about that stuff," Millar said. "I have fun. I live for the moment. I don't worry about what people think or what people say."

Orioles Chief Operating Officer Andy MacPhail signed off on the move, Millar said.

"As long as Mr. MacPhail and everybody was okay with it, it's all in fun," Millar said. "I'm throwing out a first pitch at Fenway Park. I'm not doing anything wrong."

The arrangement, though, was clearly seen as strange -- even within Red Sox circles. Millar even taped a segment for Fox in which he read the Boston lineup.

"This is another one of those things where only he can pull it off," Boston Manager Terry Francona said. "He's a member of the Baltimore Orioles. He's going to be spurring on the Red Sox and nobody is going to say a word. . . . I love it, but I don't get it. It's Millar."

Replacement in Place

Boston's benching of center fielder Coco Crisp for Games 6 and 7 of the ALCS is an indication of how excited the Red Sox are about rookie Jacoby Ellsbury, and how expendable Crisp might be.

"It's getting close to his time to make an impact at the big league level," General Manager Theo Epstein said. "It's a little premature [to say Ellsbury will have a major role in 2008], but we like the fact he's already contributed at the big league level."

Crisp, a .280 career hitter with a .329 on-base percentage, caught the final out of Game 7. It's possible that, should he be available via trade this offseason, the Nationals could be interested. The Nationals want to improve their play in center field and in the leadoff spot, where Crisp has hit more than any slot in his career. Crisp is due to make $10.5 million over 2008 and '09, and the club holds an $8 million option for 2010 -- with a $500,000 buyout.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company