Daily Dose: The Dice-Man Cometh (Back)

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No one seemed to know quite what to expect from Daisuke Matsuzaka’s return to the rotation Tuesday night, but he looked like the effectively wild 2008 version instead of the totally ineffective 2009 version. Starting for the first time since June 19 he took a no-hitter into the fifth inning, struck out six, worked primarily in the low-90s, and held the Angels scoreless for six frames for just his second victory of the season.
Matsuzaka was far from perfect, throwing just 52 of 93 pitches for strikes and issuing three walks, but even while going 18-3 with a 2.90 ERA last year control was always an issue. Prior to coming off the disabled list Matsuzaka had a 3.86 ERA and 23/9 K/BB ratio in 21 innings while rehabbing his strained shoulder in the minors, so there is some reason for optimism even beyond Tuesday night’s impressive return.
While the Red Sox give Matsuzaka a three-week audition for October here are some other notes from around baseball …


* After various setbacks and altered timetables Jake Peavy is officially scheduled to make his White Sox debut Saturday against the Royals. Sidelined since June 8 with an ankle injury and then elbow problems, Peavy is finally ready to return now that the White Sox are basically out of the playoff mix. Kansas City is a favorable matchup to return to, but Peavy is expected to be on a limited pitch count initially.
* After three straight rough outings Cliff Lee bounced back in a big way Tuesday with a complete-game shutout against the Nationals, making him 7-2 with a 2.67 ERA in nine starts for Philadelphia. Lee has averaged over seven innings per start since the July 29 trade that sent six players to Cleveland, completing three of his nine outings while posting a 60/9 K/BB ratio in 64 innings.
* Carlos Zambrano struggled Tuesday night amid reports that the Cubs plan to shop him this offseason, giving up five runs over five innings in a no-decision against the Brewers. He had a season-high nine strikeouts, but walked four, uncorked two wild pitches, and coughed up a 4-0 lead. Zambrano is owed $18 million per year through 2012, yet has ERAs of 3.95, 3.91, and now 3.94 during the past three seasons.
* News that the Rangers are skipping Kevin Millwood’s next turn in the rotation would raise lots of eyebrows if not for the fact that he’s 1-3 with a 7.62 ERA in his last five starts and 2-5 with a 6.29 ERA in a dozen outings since July 1. Even still rumors are swirling that MLB has told the financially struggling team to limit future commitments and Millwood is just 4.1 innings away from triggering a $12 million option for 2010.
AL Quick Hits: Victor Martinez left the team Tuesday due to an undisclosed personal issue and Kevin Youkilis was out of the lineup with back spasms… Andy Pettitte has been scratched from Wednesday’s start with a sore shoulder … Detroit will pay $18 million to Magglio Ordonez next year after his plate appearance-based option vested Tuesday … David Ortiz went 2-for-4 with a homer Tuesday, surpassing last season’s long-ball total with 24 … Michael Young (hamstring) rejoined the lineup Tuesday as a designated hitter after being out all month … Jarrod Washburn left Tuesday’s start with knee pain after giving up four runs in the first inning … Brett Tomko will have his next start skipped after complaining of elbow discomfort following his complete-game shutout Monday … Travis Snider homered twice Tuesday, but also struck out for the 38th time in 86 at-bats since returning from Triple-A … Tim Wakefield (back) threw a bullpen session Tuesday, but there’s no timetable yet for his return to the rotation.
NL Quick Hits: Adam Wainwright was denied his 19th victory Tuesday despite seven innings of two-run ball … Chipper Jones (groin) is expected to miss at least two more games and could be sidelined for the entire week … Jose Valverde was unavailable again Tuesday because of a 101-degree fever … Adam LaRoche went 4-for-4 with two homers Tuesday and is batting .351 with 12 homers in 40 games since returning to Atlanta … Aaron Cook (shoulder) threw a simulated game Tuesday and reported “no pain” and “a little rust” … Mike Hampton is expected to miss all of next season and may be forced to retire after undergoing rotator cuff surgery Tuesday … Tommy Hanson tossed seven shutout innings Tuesday, allowing three hits while improving to 10-3 with a 2.65 ERA … Tony La Russa said Tuesday that he’s uncertain when Troy Glaus (oblique) will return … Francisco Rodriguez was unavailable Tuesday after his wife gave birth to twins … Manny Parra (neck) will have an MRI exam Wednesday.

Video: Albert Almora, Jr. saved by the ivy

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
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The ALCS had a weird play in Game 4 on Tuesday night, but Game 4 of the NLCS did as well. This one involved Cubs outfielder Albert Almora, Jr. and his attempt to spark a rally in the bottom of the ninth inning against Dodgers reliever Ross Stripling.

After Alex Avila singled, Almora ripped a double to left field, past a diving Enrique Hernandez. The ball rolled to the ivy in front of the wall. Most outfielders there would’ve put their hands up, which would have alerted the umpires to call an immediate ground-rule double. Hernandez didn’t, instead fishing the ball out and firing it back into the infield. Avila had stopped at third base, but Almora kept running. Much to his surprise, he pulled up into third base to see his teammate standing there, resigned to his fate as a dead duck. Third baseman Justin Turner applied the tag on Almora for what he thought was the first out of the inning.

Almora, however, was then sent back to second base after the umpires correctly called a ground-rule double.

Unfortunately for the Cubs, the lucky break didn’t help as closer Kenley Jansen came in and took care of business, retiring all three batters he faced without letting an inherited runner score. The Dodgers won 6-1 and now lead the NLCS three games to none. They’ll try to punch their ticket to the World Series on Wednesday.