Daisuke Matsuzaka said he wasn’t certain about his future with the Red Sox beyond this season when he becomes a free agent.
But given his subpar pitching performances of late, which have added to his stress level, these could very well be the last days we see Matsuzaka in a Red Sox uniform.
“Honestly, I don’t know if I’ll be wearing this Red Sox uniform next year,’’ Matsuzaka said through his interpreter, Jeff Cutler. “As I’ve said before, it’s an honor to be able to wear this Red Sox uniform, but it hasn’t been an added stress for me.’’
What did prove stressful was the mighty struggle Matsuzaka waged to get out of the second inning of Saturday night’s 9-2 setback against the Toronto Blue Jays after he was drubbed in a truncated 1⅓-inning performance, giving up five runs on five hits, including a solo homer by Yunel Escobar that sparked a five-run outburst.
Then came the deluge.
As a consolation Matsuzaka did not have to hang around to get drenched from the windswept sheets of rain that pelted his teammates and the announced Fenway Park crowd of 37,107, causing a pair of rain delays totaling 2 hours 3 minutes.
When Mike Aviles struck out to end the game at 12:09 a.m. Sunday, it brought a merciful conclusion to this soggy affair that lasted 2 hours 55 minutes, but took nearly five hours to complete as the Sox (63-77) tumbled out of a fourth-place tie with Jays to the bottom of the American League East standings.
“He had a good first [inning],’’ said Sox manager Bobby Valentine of Matsuzaka, who had two strikeouts in the first as he retired the Jays on 19 pitches. “But the first of the second inning goes over the fence. After that he made decent pitches . . . but he didn’t pitch well enough.’’
Toronto lefthander Aaron Laffey, called in when scheduled starter J.A. Happ was shut down with a broken right foot, retired nine of the first 10 batters he faced, allowing only a Ryan Lavarnway walk.
Matsuzaka, meanwhile, absorbed his fifth loss of the season (1-5), leaving it to five relievers to piece together the remaining 7⅔ innings.
“It’s tiring,’’ Valentine said. “Guys are tired of playing from behind, I’ll guarantee that. Bullpen’s tired of just eating up innings. It’s tough.’’
Andrew Bailey entered in the ninth and served up a three-run home run to Anthony Gose, who clobbered the first of his major league career 12 rows into the stands in right to put the game out of reach.
“I’m real disappointed that I haven’t been able to be there for the team the past two games,’’ said Matsuzaka, who showed much promise in a 5-1 triumph over the Royals Aug. 27 at Fenway by going seven innings and allowing one unearned run on five hits and two walks while ringing up six strikeouts.
When he followed that up with a poor outing Sept. 2 at Oakland, where he gave up six runs on seven hits in 3⅔ innings in a 6-2 loss, there was some concern Matsuzaka’s win at Fenway, his first since May 8, 2011, was nothing more than an aberration.
“It’s really stressful that I haven’t been able to be consistent whenever I go out there,’’ Matsuzaka said. “It’s been a struggle every day, in between starts.’’
Matsuzaka didn’t get his first out until after he threw his 22d pitch of the inning, getting Rajai Davis to hit a sacrifice fly to center that made it 5-0.
When Colby Rasmus came up and reached on a line single to right, Matsuzaka, mercifully, was done for the night after 42 pitches (25 strikes), marking his second-shortest outing of his career. Both came this season after he threw 28 pitches in a 6-1 loss at Oakland July 2 in which he gave up a solo homer in the first inning and a three-run shot in the second.
Alfredo Aceves, the recalcitrant reliever who was suspended three games Aug. 25 for conduct detrimental to the team, was summoned from the bullpen to provide some long relief.
Aceves made quick work of it, though. He got out of the inning by getting Edwin Encarnacion to fly to center, and then watched as Rasmus, who mistakenly thought there were two outs when he ran toward second base, wound up getting doubled up at first by Sox center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury.
Dustin Pedroia came to the plate and drew a first-pitch ball from Laffey before the skies parted at 8:25 p.m, causing a rain delay of 58 minutes.
When play resumed at 9:23, Pedroia came to the plate with a 1-0 count.
With one pitch, Laffey got Pedroia to hit a pop foul near first for the first out of the inning. After Cody Ross drew a walk, Laffey got Mauro Gomez to ground to short for a 6-4-3 double play.
Andrew Miller, making his 47th appearance of the season, entered the fifth in relief of Aceves, who allowed one hit and struck out two in 2⅔ innings. Miller retired the Jays in 1-2-3 fashion, striking out Rasmus, and getting Encarnacion and Adam Lind to fly to right.
The Sox came to life in the fifth and rallied for a pair of runs when Lavarnway drew a leadoff walk and went to second on Mike Aviles’s single past third. With no outs and men in scoring position, Scott Podsednik hit safely for the 14th time in his last 16 starts at Fenway when he ripped an RBI single to right, scoring Lavarnway to pull the Sox within 5-1.
Lind then made a brilliant fielding play on Jose Iglesias’s pop foul to first, lunging to make the catch. Lind then made a diving tag on the bag to double up Podsednik, who was caught off guard.
With two out and Aviles at third, Pedro Ciriaco hit an RBI single to center to make it 5-2.
Ellsbury came to the plate as rain began to fall. Laffey, one out from ending the fifth, fell behind in the count, 2 and 0, when a downpour caused a second rain delay of 1:05.
When play resumed at 1o:51, Brad Lincoln relieved Laffey, who went 4⅔ innings and allowed two runs on four hits and struck out two. Although there were still four innings to play, Lincoln made it an official game when he induced Ellsbury to ground out to second.
Mark Melancon relieved Miller (one inning, one strikeout) in the sixth and retired the Jays in 1-2-3 fashion, sandwiching a pair of strikeouts against Escobar and Arencibia around Kelly Johnson’s groundout to third as Aceves, Miller, and Melancon combined for five scoreless frames, retiring 15 of 17 batters, including the last 13.
Vicente Padilla entered in the eighth in relief of Melancon (two innings, three strikeouts) and snapped the bullpen’s streak of scoreless frames when he gave up three consecutive singles, including an RBI hit to right by Lind that made it 6-2.
After he got Escobar to ground to third to start a double play by Ciriaco, Padilla got out of the inning when he fanned Johnson.
The Sox, meanwhile, were unable to generate any offensive response in their last three frames as the Blue Jays put it out of reach on Gose’s three-run homer off Bailey in the ninth.