Dice-K to meet Big Unit

Dice-K to meet Big Unit

Another Daisuke Matsuzaka start means yet another subplot to the rookie's fascinating transition into Major League Baseball. This time, the Japanese right-hander is matched up with future Hall of Famer Randy Johnson.

"It's a good matchup for baseball," said Diamondbacks left fielder Eric Byrnes. "You've got obviously one of the most highly acclaimed pitchers to ever come to the United States versus one of the most highly acclaimed pitcher from the United States, so it's going to be fun to be a part of."

And, in yet another twist, Matsuzaka gets to break out his bat for the first time on United States soil, as the Red Sox don't have the designated hitter in Arizona.

"I've always enjoyed facing the best pitchers," said Matsuzaka. "It gives me a chance to see the pitches thrown by the best pitchers. In this case, I'll get to see it with my own eyes. I'm looking forward to that."

In preparation, Matsuzaka took live batting practice on Friday and even put a couple of balls into the cheap seats. Though the DH was in effect during Matsuzaka's eight years with the Seibu Lions, he's always enjoyed hitting. In his final two seasons, he got to take some swings with the advent of Interleague Play in Japan.

On June 9, 2006, Matsuzaka went deep in Koshien against the Hanshin Tigers.

Matsuzaka went 4-for-19 (.211) with the one homer and three RBIs during his time with Seibu.

Of course, most of the attention will be focused on his pitching, and how it matches up with the filthy offerings of the Big Unit.

"That's a marquee matchup right there," said Diamondbacks manager Bob Melvin. "It's going to be an exciting game. We haven't seen Matsuzaka at all, just on TV. They've seen a little bit of Randy last year, though I think he's pitching a little better and differently than he has."

Matsuzaka suffered a tough-luck loss in his last start at Oakland, giving up just two runs over seven innings.

"He's such a competitor," Red Sox shortstop Julio Lugo said of Matsuzaka. "He just goes out there and pitches as good as he can. He throws so many pitches and he never gives up. He gives us an opportunity to take the game over."

Of course, Johnson has been known to take over a few games of his own over the years.

"He's been one of the best pitchers of the last decade," Lugo said. "He has a good slider, a good fastball and he knows how to pitch. He's been one of the best for a long period of time so you've got to respect that."

Pitching matchup
BOS: RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka (7-4, 4.63 ERA)
Matsuzaka made his seventh quality start when he gave up two runs on seven hits over seven innings in a 2-0 loss to the Oakland A's on Tuesday. The bad news is that he threw 130 pitches, the most by a Red Sox hurler since last April. The good news is that he's bunched good starts together, so he may do so again this time around.

ARI: LHP Randy Johnson (3-2, 3.78 ERA)
The left-hander allowed two runs on seven hits over six innings in his last start. He has hit his stride of late throwing six shutout innings in his start before against the Phillies in Philadelphia. Johnson missed the start prior to the one in Philly with tendinitis in his left forearm, but it has not bothered him since. Lifetime vs. the Red Sox, Johnson is 15-7 with a 4.57 ERA.

Player to watch
Sox slugger Manny Ramirez has five homers and 17 RBIs lifetime against Johnson.

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Up next
• Monday: Off-day
• Tuesday: Red Sox (Tim Wakefield, 5-7, 4.22) vs. Rockies (Aaron Cook, 4-2, 4.54), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Wednesday: Red Sox (Curt Schilling, 6-2, 3.49) vs. Rockies (Josh Fogg, 1-5, 5.06), 7:05 p.m. ET

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