I understood the hype coming into this game – Dice-K vs. Ichiro – two Japanese superstars meeting for the first time on American soil. But the intriguing matchup all along to me was Dice-K vs. King Felix. No young pitcher in the league has a higher ceiling than Felix Hernandez and the 20-year old babyfaced chubster of a year ago who didn’t quite live up to expectations has been replaced by a slimmed down babyfaced assassin this year who looks ready to dominate. And dominate is just what he did last night.
The Red Sox feared lineup didn’t even get the ball out of the infield until the seventh inning and J.D. Drew’s single up the middle past a diving Jose Lopez in the eighth was their only hit of the night. It was a solidly struck ball but if it had been two or three feet to the right then Felix has the first no-hitter in Fenway in over 40 years.
Despite the fact that Dice-K was the second best pitcher on the field – for this game anyway – and by a large margin, much of the postgame coverage was still centered around his duel with Ichiro which no one will remember a week from now. Matsuzaka pitched pretty well and giving up three earned runs in seven innings will probably earn him the win for the Sox seven times out of ten, but he did make some mistakes out over the plate and the M’s made him pay when he did.
King Felix’s line after two games is Randy Johnsonesque (from back in the day anyway): 17 IP, 4 hits, 18 strikeouts, 0 runs. He’s going to have some bad days this year and will probably have some growing pains (he’s something like four days past his 21st birthday fer chrissakes) but when he’s on his game he’s almost unhittable.