ALCS interview: Daisuke Matsuzaka

ALCS interview: Daisuke Matsuzaka

Q. Up to now, you've faced the Rays many times, but looking back on the first four games of this series, do you have any new overall impressions? And secondly, are there any hitters that you're particularly conscious of going into your game Friday?

DAISUKE MATSUZAKA: As I said before Game 1, they are a strong team. They take advantage of their opportunities. They hit well. They have good pitching, and they're solid on defense, and they're a very well balanced team.

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As for any particular hitter in the lineup, I think their entire lineup has been hitting very well, so there's not any one guy I'm focusing on.

Q. What have you been able to do that your fellow starters have not through the first four games against this lineup, and can you take the same game plan into a game against the same team five days later?

DAISUKE MATSUZAKA: When you get hit, you get hit, no matter who you are, and you just have to do your best to pitch to quality locations.

For me in the next game, even if I have to throw a lot of pitches, I'm going to do my best to throw to quality spots and keep them guessing and keep them off balance, but I won't be going into it the exact same game plan as Game 1.

Q. Games like this are why the Red Sox brought you on board a year ago. Do you feel the importance of the game, and do you think you're best in pressure situations like this?

DAISUKE MATSUZAKA: I'm not Beckett, but if I can pitch like he did last year and hand the ball off to the guys behind me, that would be great.

Q. In the first game against Tampa, how conscious were you of trying to be more aggressive in the strike zone, and if you were, how much of a benefit was that to you?

DAISUKE MATSUZAKA: The Rays' lineup has a lot of aggressive hitters, and I wanted to take advantage of that in the last game. But in terms of attacking the strike zone and being aggressive again, that's certainly something that I want to keep doing.

Q. Can you just talk about some of the different ways that Jason Varitek has helped you the last couple years, and how hopeful are you that he'll be back next year, too?

DAISUKE MATSUZAKA: For two years over all those games that Varitek has caught for me, I've been able to pitch with less and less stress over that time, and that certainly has helped me in my performance, as well.

Any time a pitcher pairs up with a new catcher, there's some adjustments that need to be made, and it's not an easy process. So I just hope I get to be paired up with the same catcher for as long as possible.

Q. You're matched up against Scott Kazmir again in your next start, as you have been many times throughout the season, but what are your thoughts on that? Second question is you spent some time talking with Iwamura in the field yesterday; what were you guys talking about? Facing him as a hitter, he's probably a hitter that can hit a lot of extra base hits in this ballpark, but how are you going to approach him?

DAISUKE MATSUZAKA: It doesn't really matter who's starting for the opposing team.

As for Iwamura, we were just making the usual small talk in the field, not anything that needs to be repeated here. He's their leadoff hitter, and he's done a great job sparking their offense.

As for hitting the extra-base hits in this field, he's been doing a good job going to the opposite field and hitting some doubles, but it's not something that I'm going to dwell on too much.

Q. Going back to talking about Jason Varitek again, you mentioned last season that it took you about two years to really get used to working with your catcher with the Seibu Lions, Hosokawa. Do you feel it has taken these two years that have gone by now with the Red Sox, or do you feel like you've already meshed well, and when do you feel that meshing took place over the course of the season?

DAISUKE MATSUZAKA: To really know each other well, it takes a long time. But compared to last year, we've made a lot of progress.

Unfortunately, the language barrier is still there, and it always will be there. But as more time goes by and the more we work together, things are only going to get better.

Q. How much did you rely on your shuto pitch in the last start, and why was the location, the accuracy, so much better this last time?

DAISUKE MATSUZAKA: It isn't a pitch that I throw a lot during the regular season, so sometimes in those situations where I am able to throw it in a greater number, I can rely on it.

As for using it in my previous start, I didn't have a good feel for a lot of my pitches or any one pitch that was working particularly well, so I did rely on it a little bit more.

I think the quality of any pitch depends on using it in games and working on it in game situations, so the more I'm able to use that pitch in games, the better it's going to get over time.