Daisuke Matsuzaka pinched his eyelids, clenched his teeth, and thought back. He couldn’t remember all the details of the first save of his professional career.
After 123 starts during seven seasons in Major League Baseball, the 33-year-old righthander was turned into a reliever by the New York Mets when they brought him up from the minor leagues on April 16. Eight days later, manager Terry Collins took a chance — a roll of the Dice-K? — and Matsuzaka responded with a perfect ninth inning Thursday at Citi Field to cap a 4-1 win over the St. Louis Cardinals.
He hadn’t saved a game since May 2000, his second season with the Seibu Lions of Japan’s Pacific League, when he struck out four during the final three innings of a 9-0 win at the Chiba Lotte Marines.
‘‘It’s definitely different,’’ he said through a translator, ‘‘but I think I’m starting to get used to going from the bullpen.’’
Chris Young homered to start New York’s rally from a 1-0, fifth-inning deficit, slumping Curtis Granderson singled in a run as a pinch hitter, and Daniel Murphy drove in two. Bartolo Colon (2-3) allowed four hits in seven innings, sending Lance Lynn to his first career loss in April.
Matsuzaka, who completed a four-pitcher, four-hitter, went 33-15 in his first two seasons with the Red Sox before injuries derailed his stint in Boston. He joined the Mets last summer, starting seven games, and signed a minor league deal with New York, which initially sent him to Triple-A Las Vegas this spring.
But when Bobby Parnell’s season ended with a torn elbow ligament, the Mets had to scramble to restock their bullpen. Jose Valverde struggled as the closer and Kyle Farnsworth took over the role. Manager Terry Collins wanted to give the 38-year-old Farnsworth a rest after three appearances in four days.
‘‘I just said this is a good opportunity to see how Dice handles it,’’ Collins explained, ‘‘and he did well.’’
In a 15-pitch outing, Matsuzaka retired Allen Craig on a lineout to right after falling behind 3-and-1, struck out Daniel Descalso in an eight-pitch at-bat, and got Peter Bourjos on a game-ending foulout to the catcher.
‘‘Before, I never really thought I would be able to pitch out of the bullpen because I just take so long to prepare,’’ Matsuzaka said. ‘‘I think I just have to keep pitching well to gain full confidence from the team, but I think having had a few opportunities in tight situations definitely is encouraging.’’
Collins said Farnsworth remains his first-choice closer but Matsuzuka may receive more opportunities. His preparation, which includes lengthy stretching, will have to change.
‘‘If he’s going to pitch the back end of the game, be it the eighth, the ninth, somewhere in there,’’ the manager said, ‘‘I don’t want him to wear himself out in the fifth inning, at 8:15. I want him to kind of save something.’’
Dice-K said it’s as much mental as physical.
‘‘Just to comfort myself, I think I throw more than I probably have to,’’ he said.
Lynn (4-1) had been 12-0 through April in his big league career, including one March victory. But given a fifth-inning lead, he allowed the Mets to tie the score in the bottom half and go ahead, 2-1, on Murphy’s RBI double in the sixth.
Twins 9, Rays 7 — Aaron Hicks hit a three-run homer, Sam Fuld had a pair of RBI doubles, and Minnesota took two of three from Tampa Bay for its first series win at Tropicana Field since September 2006.
Kurt Suzuki drove in three runs for the Twins and Ron Gardenhire moved past Chuck Dressen into sole possession of 59th place on the career victory list with 1,009.
Fuld, claimed off waivers from Oakland on Sunday, had two hits in his Twins debut Wednesday and added three more Thursday. He spent the previous three years with the Rays.
Indians 5, Royals 1 — Corey Kluber struck out a career-high 11 and pitched a four-hitter for his first complete game, leading host Cleveland over Kansas City.
Kluber is the first Cleveland pitcher to throw a complete game while recording 11 strikeouts, no walks or earned runs since Len Barker’s perfect game in 1981. David Murphy and Asdrubal Cabrera drove in two runs apiece in the Indians’ five-run fifth off Bruce Chen (1-2).
Reds 2, Pirates 1 — Ryan Ludwick lined a two-run double after two Cincinnati batters were hit by pitches, lifting Tony Cingrani (2-2) and the Reds in Pittsburgh.
Diamondbacks 5, Cubs 2 — Mike Bolsinger earned his first major league win, allowing one unearned run in 6⅓ innings, and hitting an RBI single as visiting Arizona beat Chicago.
Tigers 7, White Sox 4 — Miguel Cabrera hit a pair of two-out singles to drive in three runs, Max Scherzer (2-1) struck out 10, and host Detroit beat Chicago.
Orioles 11, Blue Jays 4 — Chris Davis had two hits and three RBIs, Jonathan Schoop homered, and visiting Baltimore beat Toronto. Nelson Cruz drove in two runs for the Orioles, extending his streak of games with at least one RBI to seven.
Athletics 10, Astros 1 — Josh Donaldson hit a pair of two-run homers for his first career multi-homer game and visiting Oakland cruised past Houston.
Padres 4, Nationals 3 — Former Nationals outfielder Xavier Nady’s tiebreaking RBI single off Craig Stammen in the top of the 12th got San Diego a win in Washington.