PHILADELPHIA -- Justin Masterson will tell you he was a solid hitter back in his days at Bethel College in Mishawaka, Ind. But that was a decade ago. A day before making his first start for the Red Sox since 2009, Masterson informed the media that he couldn't hit anymore.
Maybe it was just a setup. The right-hander not only dazzled from the mound on Thursday against the Phillies, but he smoked two hits, including an RBI shot up the middle that was part of a six-run third inning by the Red Sox and led to the 6-2 win. It was the first multi-hit game of Masterson's career.
"I can't [hit]," Masterson said after the game. "I can't. You get lucky out there. Hit one up the middle, pull one down the line. It's not skill; it's just luck."
While the offense provided some lightheartedness, particularly when Masterson wore a jacket that looked more like a parka while running the bases, the pitching had the most relevance.
After all of Masterson's struggles of a year ago -- the same which led to the one-year contract the righty signed with Boston -- he badly wanted to start 2015 off with a strong outing.
Over the six innings, Masterson allowed just three hits and two runs. He walked two and struck out seven.
Masterson's sinkerball was sharp, and his slider kept the Phillies off-balance.
In this one, Masterson looked far more like his 2013 self than in the mess of a season he had last year, when he pitched through injuries and never felt right.
"It's what we're working toward," Masterson said. "It's just the precipice, just the beginning of it, trying to continue to get better and get stronger and have games like this and even better. That's the goal of being consistent as I go on. Hopefully I'm able to do that."
After serving as Masterson's pitching coach for his first two Major League seasons, Red Sox manager John Farrell endorsed Masterson's return.
"Well, one, he's pitched in this environment. He knows what Boston is about," Farrell said. "Provided that all the physical due diligence that we did, that it checked out, we felt like it was a good investment to make."
Masterson always looked at home the first time he played for the Red Sox, and putting the uniform back on has been seamless.
"I feel pretty comfortable right now, with a victory," Masterson said. "It's great."
The Red Sox took two of three in their first series of 2015, and they'll take it on to New York for the next three games.
"I thought it was just a neat testament to our team right now, even though it's been three short games," Masterson said. "Pitchers have been doing great, offense has been great. You saw some power in the first game, now you see them working some counts, taking walks, taking advantage of a few errors and still scoring a lot of runs. Especially on cold, drizzly nights that we've had, I've been really impressed with our team so far."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.