Daisuke Matsuzaka froze the incomparable Miguel Cabrera with a breaking ball for a called third strike in the fifth inning, his ninth of 10 consecutive batters retired to end his debut outing with the Mets.
Of course, Cabrera and the Tigers did plenty of damage earlier in the game, sending Dice-K and the Mets to a 6-1 loss Friday night at Citi Field.
Matsuzaka allowed five runs in the first two innings, including a solo homer to Torii Hunter and a three-run shot to Cabrera, in his first major league appearance since last October with Boston.
“I was a little bit more nervous than I expected to be, and the home runs and the runs and the hits that came those two innings woke me up,” Matsuzaka said through an interpreter. “From the third inning on, I was able to settle down and go back to what I worked on in the minor leagues. … It convinced me I can keep major league batters off the bases.
“Unfortunately, the first two innings decided the game, so it really wasn’t how I wanted it to go. But I think I was able to finish strong and that’s something I can take away from this start.”
Matsuzaka added that he signed with the Mets instead of an interested contender because they offered him the chance to pitch immediately in the majors.
The Mets signed Matsuzaka, who cost the Red Sox $103 million in salary and posting fees when he left the Seibu Lions for America in 2007, on Thursday for the remainder of the season to fill a hole in their starting rotation created by elbow injuries to Jeremy Hefner and Jenrry Mejia.
“We looked internally and really were faced with the fact that we have a number of young pitchers that we feel would do a nice job for us, but they are running up against inning limits,” general manager Sandy Alderson said.
Alderson added that Carlos Torres, who initially was to be shifted back to the rotation, will remain in the bullpen, where he has been most effective this season.
Matsuzaka, 32, opted out of a minor league contract earlier this week with Cleveland.
“The last time I saw him he was one of the best in the world,” Terry Collins said.
According to Alderson, Matsuzaka’s deal comes with no options or assurances for 2014. But the GM added “it’s always a possibility” that the veteran righty could pitch himself into a contract for next season over the next six weeks.
Since Matsuzaka (0-1) pitched on Monday at Columbus, Collins planned to hold him to a pitch count in the 85-90 range Friday night. Dice-K was halfway to his limit through two innings, allowing six hits, including Hunter’s blast in the first and his RBI double one inning later. With first base open, Cabrera then pounded a three-run homer down the line in left, his 41st of the season, for a 5-1 lead.