Red Sox right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka almost became the first pitcher to throw a no-hitter against the Phillies since 1978 on Saturday night, but Juan Castro ruined the no-hit bid with a broken-bat flare single to left field with two outs in the eighth inning. Castro prevented history, but the Phillies could not prevent the 5-0 loss.
"He was throwing a [heck] of a game," Castro said.
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel watched the Phillies hit a few bullets off Matsuzaka, but each one ended up in a Red Sox player's glove. Chase Utley ripped a line drive toward right field in the first inning, but second baseman Dustin Pedroia made a leaping catch, allowing him to double up Placido Polanco to end the inning.
Utley and Ryan Howard hit a couple of balls hard in the fourth inning, but they were caught in the outfield.
Jayson Werth ripped a line drive up the middle in the seventh, but Matsuzaka snared the ball out of the air with his glove.
"I saw the ball, so I put my glove out, but I didn't actually think I would make the catch," Matsuzaka said. "It was at that point that my teammates thought maybe I had a chance."
Then came the moment in the eighth inning when almost everybody thought he was going to do it. Matsuzaka walked Raul Ibanez to lead off the inning, then Carlos Ruiz ripped a line drive toward third baseman Adrian Beltre.
Beltre somehow caught the ball just inches off the ground. He caught the ball so low that Ibanez wasn't sure if the ball had been caught. Ibanez was in between first and second when Beltre threw to first for a double play.
"I don't know if it was self-defense or if he's that good," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "It seemed like the stars were aligned."
Well, most of them were.
Matsuzaka ran a 3-1 count to Castro, who muscled a 3-1 fastball into left field. Red Sox shortstop Marco Scutaro broke back to try to make the play, but the ball fell just over his glove for the Phillies' only hit of the night.
It ended Matsuzaka's no-hit bid, which would have made him the first pitcher to throw a no-hitter against the Phillies since St. Louis Cardinals right-hander Bob Forsch threw one in a 5-0 victory at old Busch Stadium on April 16, 1978.
"I know the whole country of Japan hates me," Scutaro joked. "Sorry, sorry. My bad."
"I wasn't really looking to hit the ball the other way or pull it or hit it up the middle," Castro said. "I was trying to make some contact."
Castro smiled when he was asked if it looked to him like things were going Matsuzaka's way after Ruiz lined into the double play.
"It looked that way," Castro said. "We hit the ball pretty good. They made some good plays. I was glad that I came out with a hit. When you see games like that and guys are making all the plays, it makes you think it's one of those nights when everything is in his favor."
Kyle Kendrick seemed to have some things working in his favor until he allowed four two-out runs in the fifth inning to make it a five-run game. Kendrick lasted just 4 2/3 innings, allowing eight hits, five runs and two walks and striking out two.
It was the first time since April 14, when Kendrick lasted just 1 2/3 innings against the Nationals, that a Phillies starter had not pitched at least five innings. Phillies starters entered the night 20-10 with a 3.34 ERA, which ranked third in the National League. Their ability to pitch deep into games has allowed the bullpen to throw just 99 1/3 innings -- fewest in the league.
Phillies starters were 14-5 with a 2.96 ERA in May heading into Saturday night. They had pitched six or more innings in 18 of their previous 19 starts this month. They had pitched seven or more innings in 11 of those 19 starts, and at least seven innings six times in the previous seven games.
But not Saturday.
Saturday was Dice-K's night.
"I felt like he was wild enough to be effective," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "He wasn't what you call real sharp, but at the same time he threw strikes when he had to and he threw all his pitches."
Manuel said he had never been on the losing end of a no-hitter in the big leagues. He knocked on the table in front of him as he uttered those words, hoping it doesn't happen while he manages the Phillies. It almost happened Saturday, but Castro got lucky enough to have his ball dropped just over Scutaro's glove.
"We don't have to hear all day -- 'No-hit, no-hit, Phillies,' you know?" Polanco said. "At least we got one."