Sox go for sweep behind Dice-K

Sox go for sweep behind Dice-K

The latest big "first" for Daisuke Matsuzaka comes Sunday night at Fenway Park, when the right-hander officially gets his initiation into the madness known as Red Sox-Yankees.

When the Red Sox invested $103.1 million in acquiring Matsuzaka, certainly there were thoughts of how this talented right-hander from Japan could shift the balance of power in the American League East in both the present and future.

This will be Matsuzaka's first chance to show how well he can stand up to the mighty Yankees, and their never-ending offense.

A win would give the Red Sox their first three-game sweep of the Yankees at Fenway since 1990, and also create a four-game gap between the American League East foes.

"I don't know what to expect since I've never experienced it before," Matsuzaka said of pitching in the rivalry. "But certainly I'm looking forward to it."

Though Red Sox-Yankees adds yet another element of hype for Matsuzaka, he's used to it. His every move has been followed since the moment he arrived from Japan.

"He's been the center of attention and he's been a really good pitcher," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "This certainly won't overwhelm him. From what I've seen of him, he enjoys immense things like this. He'll be just fine."

When asked who on the Yankees he looked forward to facing the most, Matsuzaka offered four letters and a dash.

"A-Rod," he said.

Alex Rodriguez, of course, has been nothing short of torrid at the plate. Perhaps Matsuzaka can keep A-Rod guessing with his six-pitch arsenal.

Matsuzaka's thoughts on entering the rivalry everyone talks about?

"I think I'd like to head into the [start] with the same mentality that I would when I face any other team," said Matsuzaka.

Once he actually experiences it, Matsuzaka figures to have a better gauge of the sheer intensity that takes place whenever these two teams meet.

"He's certainly not lived through it," said Francona. "I know my first year I think I said all the right things, but I had no idea. I don't think anybody does until you go through it. But in saying that, he has pitched a lot of professional games and he's been a big deal."

Matsuzaka followed enough baseball in Japan to know what type of clout the Yankees carry.

"Even though it has been a few years since they won the World Series, they are always one of the strongest teams in our division and I know that they are a great baseball team overall," Matsuzaka said. "I know they are a great team with a lot of great players."

The Yankees have heard all about Matsuzaka. Now they'll see what he looks like from 60 feet, six inches away.

Yankees Coverage
Jeter's late homer lifts Yanks
Yanks gear up for lesser opponents
Chamberlain springs curve on Sox
Notes: Peace of mind for Posada

Red Sox Coverage
Schilling's gem ends with loss
Bauman: Game mirrors Classic duel
Sox don't take lead for granted
Notes: Matsuzaka pushed back
Season Series
Yankees win 10-8
• 9/16: Yankees 4, Red Sox 3
• 9/15: Red Sox 10,Yankees 1
• 9/14: Yankees 8, Red Sox 7
Previous season series
2006: Yankees 11, Red Sox 8
2005: Yankees 10, Red Sox 9
2004: Red Sox 11, Yankees 8

"The biggest thing is to try to swing at strikes," said Yankees slugger Jason Giambi. "Just try to keep it that simple. If you just swing at strikes, hopefully you'll get some type of advantage. You know, we haven't faced him. So he definitely has the advantage. He has the advantage right now."

The biggest problem for Matsuzaka in his last two starts has been run support. In losses to the Mariners and Blue Jays, the Red Sox scored a total of one run. Matsuzaka allowed three runs over seven innings to Seattle and two runs over six to the Jays.

Pitching matchup
BOS: RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka (1-2, 2.70 ERA)
Matsuzaka is trying to snap a two-game losing streak, though he pitched well enough to win in both starts. Matsuzaka has given up three earned runs or less in all three of his outings. Control betrayed him during his last start against the Blue Jays on Tuesday, when he walked three batters in the fourth inning of a 2-1 loss. This will be his second start at Fenway Park.

NYY: LHP Chase Wright (1-0, 5.40 ERA)
Wright earned the opportunity for his second Major League start with a solid five-inning effort in a win over Cleveland on Tuesday. The 24-year-old was called up from Double-A to start, gave up three runs on five hits, walked three and struck out three in an effort in which two of the hits and walks were yielded in the first inning.

Player to watch
Center fielder Coco Crisp has produced multi-hit games the last three days.

On the Internet
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television

On radio
• WRKO-680 AM, Spanish Baseball Network (Español)

Up next
• Monday: Red Sox (Tim Wakefield, 2-1, 1.35) vs. Blue Jays (Tomo Ohka, 0-2, 7.02), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Tuesday: Red Sox (Julian Tavarez, 0-1, 6.75) vs. Blue Jays (Roy Halladay, 2-0, 2.37), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Wednesday: Red Sox (Curt Schilling, 2-1, 3.81) at Orioles (Daniel Cabrera, 1-1, 4.10), 7:05 p.m. ET

Ian Browne is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.