Niagara Gazette — BUFFALO — It’s seems like a lifetime ago that former high-profile Japanese pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka was racking up wins for the Boston Red Sox in his first two seasons.
The 32-year-old righty underwent Tommy John surgery before the 2012 season, and after 11 starts last season (1-7 record with a 8.28 ERA) Matsuzaka has been trying to work his way back to the big leagues. He signed a minor league deal with the Cleveland Indians in March and since then has been a mainstay in the Columbus Clippers’ rotation.
Matsuzaka was sharp Wednesday night when he led Columbus against a Bisons team looking for to win two games in a row for the first time since July 11. The Clippers struggled in the field, as their three errors in the game wasted a seven-inning, six-strike out performance by Matsuzaka, and the Bisons hung on to win, 3-2.
Bisons manager Marty Brown said Matsuzaka tends to be tough on young hitters because of the wealth of pitches in his arsenal.
“He mixes things and uses four pitches and it can confuse young hitters sometimes, because if you start looking for all four you’re not going to hit any of ‘em. It’s about commitment and really searching out a good pitch in the zone to hit.”
On the other side, Bisons starter Thad Weber was equally outstanding, allowing only one run on four hits over seven innings. Weber struck out four and earned his fourth win of the season, the most of any active Bisons pitchers.
The Clippers hit a few balls hard in the second inning, but the defense behind Weber made some big plays and he took it from there.
“(The outing) was good and I can’t complain,” he said.
. I made some mechanical adjustments after the second inning and got back on track and got back into what I normally do: command the zone, mix pitches and get results,” he said. “I think I did that pretty well.”
The Bisons took the lead in the bottom of the fifth inning after the Clippers struck first for a run in the third. Catcher Sean Ochinko doubled to left and short stop Ryan Goins dropped a sacrifice bunt down and made it to first on a throwing error.
Mike McCoy, who went 1 for 3 with a stolen base, singled to left field to plate Ochinko, while Goins advanced to third on another throwing error. Anthony Gose then brought in Goins with a sacrifice fly to left field.
Bisons manager Marty Brown said his team showed good focus after going down early to pull out the win.
“Even though we were down 1-0, Matsuzaka was mixing pitches and we weren’t really committed,” Brown said. “When the inning got to two runs I think guys were a little more focused and had a better plan going into those at bats. Guys were grinding it out a little more.”
Moises Sierra, in his third game back off the disabled list, went 2 for 4 with a stolen base. The 24-year-old right fielder went 3 for 4 on Tuesday and has a steal in each of his last three games.
Kevin Pillar continues to swing a hot bat, as he reached base for the 29th time in his 31 games with the Herd. He went 2 for 4 to improve his average to .339 on the season.
Neil Wagner earned his 14th save of the season, striking out the side in the ninth. Twenty of Wagner’s 21 outings this season have been completed without allowing a single run.Matt Parrino is the Sports Editor of our affiliated newspaper, Tonawanda News. Follow him on Twitter at @tonanewssports.