The Mud Hens' Quintin Berry bunts safely to first to advance teammate Bryan Holaday against the Columbus Clippers during the fourth inning at Fifth Third Field on Thursday.
The last time Daisuke Matsuzaka pitched in Toledo, he put together a strong effort in a rehab start on his way back to Boston.
The date was May 15, 2009, and he allowed just three hits and one walk while fanning nine Mud Hens in five solid innings. Matsuzaka suffered a hard-luck loss that day, primarily because his Pawtucket teammates got shut out and his bullpen allowed four more runs.
Matsuzaka returned Thursday to Fifth Third Field — and he was a far different pitcher than the one who took the mound almost four years ago.
The 32-year-old right-hander from Japan gave up just two hits and two runs in four innings, but he walked a whopping eight of 21 batters he faced in a contest suspended by rain after four innings.
Toledo leads 2-0 in a game that will be restarted today at 5:30 p.m. After that game is completed, the two teams will play a seven-inning contest.
Matsuzaka struggled with his command throughout his four innings of work Thursday, walking the leadoff batter in all four innings. He walked two batters in the second inning and walked the first three hitters in the third.
He threw 90 pitches in his four innings, split evenly between 45 balls and 45 strikes.
Matsuzaka declined to talk with the media, including a contingent of Japanese reporters, after the contest.
“He changes speeds really well, he was moving his fastball, and he was deceptive,” Toledo’s Jordan Lennerton said of Matsuzaka. “He has a slow wind-up, and that can make his fastball seem sneaky-fast.
“He’s been in the big leagues for a reason.”
Toledo got to Matsuzaka in the first when Quintin Berry led off with a walk, stole second, then scored on a double by Nick Castellanos. A wild pitch moved Castellanos to third, and he came home on Lennerton’s sacrifice fly.
But the Hens left two runners on in the second inning, left the bases full in both the third and fourth innings, and finished 1 for 9 when batting with runners in scoring position.
“We’re lacking that one big hit, but it’s just one swing away,” Lennerton said. “We have good hitters on this team, and it only takes one pitch, one good swing.”
Matsuzaka’s struggles Thursday were a continuation of his previous start against Indianapolis, where he walked five and gave up three hits that resulted in three runs in just 2 1/3 innings. In three starts this season he has surrendered nine hits and 16 walks in 11 1/3 innings.
Mud Hens starter Jose Alvarez was much more effective, shutting out Columbus on three hits in his four innings.
The lefty pitched out of a jam in the second inning, when he walked Jeremy Hermida and gave up an infield single to Luis Hernandez before getting three quick outs. The Clippers also put two runners on in the third, but Alvarez got Hermida to ground out to end that threat.
“Jose located well, and his breaking ball looked pretty good,” Toledo manager Phil Nevin said. “He had a couple of runners on in the second and third, but he was able to get out of those jams.
“That helped us keep some of the momentum from those runs in the first inning.”
NOTES: The Mud Hens will have reliever Luke Putkonen begin the restarted game, with scheduled starter Shawn Hill taking the regularly scheduled game. Columbus is expected to use Fernando Nieve in the restarted contest and Trevor Bauer in the game that follows. … Toledo had a hitters-only meeting before Thursday’s game. “[The message] was, ‘Keep doing what we’re doing. Things are going to work out,’ ” Lennerton said.
Contact John Wagner at:email@example.com,419-724-6481 or onTwitter @jwagnerblade.