While the Red Sox ultimately hung on for a 13-10 victory, this one nearly got away in a disaster-filled top of the sixth inning that saw the Blue Jays score eight runs against Matsuzaka and reliever Javy Lopez.
"Today, we scored runs and he had some misfortune, and he was throwing the ball better than his results," Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek said of Matsuzaka. "Quality starts are all we're looking for. And Dice has done that over and over for us. It was nice to get him a bunch of runs."
It was hard to fathom that the night could get so stressful when the Red Sox took a 10-1 lead in the bottom of the fourth inning. Matsuzaka had cruised through the first five frames, allowing just a run and five hits.
But everything changed in the sixth. Troy Glaus pummeled an opposite-field three-run homer off Matsuzaka to slice the lead to 10-5. With two on and one out, Dice-K was then replaced by Lopez, who proceeded to allow the two inherited runners to score, not to mention two more runs.
"Certainly there were a few bad breaks in a row," Matsuzaka said through translator Masa Hoshino. "I felt that I could pitch well enough to cover those bad breaks, but since I wasn't able to, that led to that big inning in the sixth."
Jays designated hitter Frank Thomas came inches away from tying the game against reliever Manny Delcarmen, but speedy left fielder Jacoby Ellsbury got the Sox out of the inning by catching his sinking liner.
"That was huge," said Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia. "It could have made it a tie game at that point. Even though they scored eight runs, it was kind of momentum on our side. That was nice. That was a tough inning. We were out there forever. Like I said, it was kind of a crazy game. I'm just glad we won."
With the win, the 83-55 Red Sox opened their lead to seven games over the Yankees in the American League East.
Mike Lowell, who has been red hot as of late, aided the cause by driving in four runs, including a three-run homer in the bottom of the first. In doing so, Lowell reached the 100-RBI barrier for the first time in his career while running his hitting streak to 16 games. With Manny Ramirez sidelined indefinitely with a strained left oblique, Lowell's tear could not have come at a better time.
"It's a number [100 RBIs] that I think you strive for, if you feel like you have the opportunities during the season," Lowell said. "I think I'm more satisfied with the fact that, you know, Manny's out of the lineup, and they're putting me in his spot and I'm producing. That's a satisfying feeling."
The case can be made that Lowell has been the most consistent player on the Red Sox this season.
"Above and beyond," said Varitek. "He's been our MVP of this team the entire year."
After surviving the top of the sixth, the Red Sox immediately revved their bats back up in the bottom of the inning. It was Lowell who started it with a single.
J.D. Drew followed with an RBI double off the Green Monster that narrowly missed being a home run. Varitek smacked an RBI single up the middle, followed by a sacrifice bunt from Coco Crisp that got another run home. A balk by Jays reliever Jason Frasor allowed another run to score, and the Red Sox had a 13-9 cushion with nine outs to go.
The bullpen took it home, thanks to Hideki Okajima, Mike Timlin and Jonathan Papelbon (save No. 32).
Much of the postgame conversation centered around where it went wrong for Matsuzaka, who allowed 10 hits and seven runs over 5 1/3 innings. It was hard to put a finger on it.
"There have been a few games in a row where I haven't been happy about my pitching," Matsuzaka said. "But even today in that situation, it was great that the team won and I was able to pick up the win. I hope I'm able to use this win as a turning point and carry it forward the rest of the season."
Matsuzaka had more life on his pitches than in his previous outing -- a loss at Yankee Stadium.
"I thought his pitches were crisp all along," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "I mean, that inning got away from us in a hurry."
Yet the Red Sox managed to survive it.
"They score eight," said Francona. "How many games do you win when the opponent scores eight in one inning?"
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.