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Dice-K faces another legend in Maddux

Dice-K faces another legend in Maddux

It seems to be a prerequisite these days for Daisuke Matsuzaka to go head-on with a future Hall of Famer when he takes the ball.

Matsuzaka met Randy Johnson in Arizona on June 10, coming up short in a tense duel. In his last start, he encountered the great Barry Bonds and won a thrilling, 1-0 game.

This time, Matsuzaka takes the ball at PETCO Park for the start of a three-game series against the Padres, where he'll be countered by a 339-game winner by the name of Greg Maddux.

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While most of this season has been about unfamiliarity for Matsuzaka, he actually knows PETCO Park better than most of his teammates.

This is the first time the Red Sox have played at PETCO, but Matsuzaka was crowned the Most Valuable Player of the inaugural World Baseball Classic on that very mound back on March 20, 2006.

That night, Matsuzaka was on a 95-pitch limit, per rules of the tournament. This time, he hopes to air it out for the Red Sox.

"There were a lot of pitchers on the Japanese team," Matsuzaka told the Japanese media on Wednesday. "I just tried to pitch my best. We were on a pitch count, so I threw harder."

Matsuzaka has pitched well over his first three starts in June, posting a 1.80 ERA.

Maddux, even at the age of 41, can still bring it. He is 5-0 with a 3.42 ERA lifetime against the Red Sox. Last time he faced Boston was at Wrigley Field in June 2005, and Maddux not only pitched well, but also hit a home run.

There should be a reunion feel to this weekend. Red Sox president/CEO Larry Lucchino will return to the park he was instrumental in building when he served in the same capacity with the Padres. Sox general manager Theo Epstein also cut his teeth in the baseball operations department of the Padres.

The Red Sox have invited their entire staff of full-time employees for the series in San Diego, and a contingent of 90 strong -- quite a few of whom used to work for the Padres -- will be on hand.

And there will be familiar faces on the other side of the field as well. Padres left-hander David Wells, who won't pitch against the Sox, spent nearly two seasons with Boston before being dealt to San Diego on Aug. 31, 2006.

Josh Bard spent a mere month with the Sox before being traded along with Cla Meredith to the Padres in order to bring Doug Mirabelli back to Boston. Meredith has emerged as a strong reliever in San Diego.

The pitching matchups all weekend are intriguing. Knuckleballer Tim Wakefield goes against Chris Young on Saturday night. And the best matchup of the series comes Sunday, when Josh Beckett goes against Padres ace Jake Peavy in what could be a preview of the All-Star Game.

Pitching matchup
BOS: RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka (8-5, 4.18 ERA)
The Red Sox's big offseason acquisition from Japan is finally showing signs of making a run. After losing stellar starts at Oakland and Arizona, Matsuzaka made sure a single run of support against San Francisco would be enough, shutting out the Giants through seven. At 4.18, Matsuzaka's ERA is creeping down to its mid-May levels, and his next start comes in the pitcher's paradise of San Diego.

SD: RHP Greg Maddux 6-3, 2.26 ERA)
Maddux won his first road game of the season in his last start Sunday against the Cubs at his old stomping grounds of Wrigley Field. The Padres provided Maddux with nine runs over the first five innings and he only ran into trouble in the sixth inning when the Cubs scored twice. All told, Maddux allowed three earned runs over six innings on seven hits. He didn't walk a batter and had one strikeout.

Player to watch
Sox third baseman Mike Lowell is a .367 hitter lifetime against Maddux with four homers and eight RBIs.

Tickets
 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• NESN

On radio
• WRKO 680, WROL (Español)

Up next
• Saturday: Red Sox (Tim Wakefield, 7-7, 4.18) at Padres (Chris Young, 6-3, 2.26), 10:05 p.m. ET
• Sunday: Red Sox (Josh Beckett, 10-1, 3.14) at Padres (Jake Peavy, 9-1, 1.98), 4:05 p.m. ET
• Monday: Red Sox (Julian Tavarez, 5-4, 4.50) at Mariners (TBD), 10:05 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.

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