Dice-K set to make return to Red Sox

Dice-K set to make return to Sox

BOSTON -- Daisuke Matsuzaka earned his eighth win of the season the last time he pitched at Fenway Park on May 22. The talented Red Sox right-hander struggled with his control, yet dazzled the Kansas City Royals over 5 2/3 innings, allowing just three runs while remaining unbeaten on the year.

But Matsuzaka's season took an unexpected detour in his next start.

It was May 27 when Matsuzaka last faced a Major League roster, throwing four innings in Seattle before leaving the contest with a right rotator cuff strain that landed him on the 15-day disabled list. He'll take the hill for the first time since late May on Saturday, as the Red Sox take on the Cardinals in an afternoon showdown in Boston.

"We're looking forward to it," said Jacoby Ellsbury about Matsuzaka's return to the rotation. "Hopefully, he'll get us a win. I've heard he pitched well down in some rehab starts, so it'll be nice to have him back."

Though it has been more than three weeks since he's taken the ball with the Sox -- he pitched five innings for Triple-A Pawtucket on Monday in a rehab assignment, going five innings and allowing two runs -- Matsuzaka said he's approaching this start just like he would any other.

"I feel just the same way as I pitched in the past," he said earlier this week through his interpreter. "I will focus on things that I always have been doing."

Matsuzaka's return comes one night after Boston squandered a bunch of opportunities, stranding 11 baserunners in a 5-4 loss to the Cardinals.

Considering how Boston has capitalized over and over again in those very situations during the team's 28-7 home record, it couldn't help but leave team members curious as to what was different against St. Louis.

"It is kind of surprising when those situations occur and we don't get that big hit -- whoever it is on that given night," catcher Kevin Cash said. "But that's baseball -- sometimes you gonna hit them, sometimes you don't."

Still, it might end up being the team's shortcomings early in series that makes the Sox dangerous. Boston has lost the first game in each of the team's four previous series leading up to this three-game set with the Cardinals. They've won the next two games in each instance.

And after an uncharacteristic night at home, that might be exactly what the Sox's potent lineup expects to do in order to help Matsuzaka to his first win in nearly a month.

"It's unfortunate leaving guys on like that," Ellsbury said after Friday's game. "But it's one of those games where you put it behind us and come into tomorrow ready to go."

Pitching matchup
BOS: RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka (8-0, 2.53 ERA)
The right-hander makes his first start since May 27 after suffering a mild strain of his rotator cuff. Matsuzaka did make a rehab outing for Triple-A Pawtucket on Monday, allowing three hits and two runs over five innings. He walked one and struck out five. Before the injury, Matsuzaka was off to a terrific start. Over 64 innings, he allowed just 45 hits while striking out 55. In Matsuzaka's first 43 Major League starts, he is 23-12 with a 3.95 ERA. This will be his first career appearance against the Cardinals.

STL: RHP Mitchell Boggs (1-0, 5.56 ERA)
In his first big league start on June 10, Boggs allowed two runs over five innings to notch his first career victory. But in game No. 2 on Sunday, it was a bit rocky. Against a potent offense in its friendly home park, Boggs will be doing well if he simply keeps his team in the ballgame.

Friday was the first Interleague loss at Fenway Park for the Sox this season. Boston swept Milwaukee on May 16-18. ... Tim Wakefield has gone at least seven innings in five consecutive starts dating back to May 28. ... Julio Lugo's sixth-inning homer was his first since Sept. 22, 2007, against Tampa Bay. It was his first long ball at Fenway since Aug. 25, 2007, against Chicago. ... Cash broke out of an 0-for-17 slump with a fifth-inning single against Kyle Lohse on Friday.

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On the Internet
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

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Up next
• Sunday: Red Sox (Jon Lester, 6-3, 3.18) vs. Cardinals (Joel Pineiro, 2-3, 4.02), 1:35 p.m. ET
• Monday: Red Sox (Josh Beckett, 7-4, 3.87) vs. Diamondbacks (Dan Haren, 7-4, 3.26), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Tuesday: Red Sox (Justin Masterson, 4-1, 3.00) vs. Diamondbacks (Doug Davis, 2-3, 3.65), 7:05 p.m. ET

Mark Remme is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.