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Matsuzaka-Kawakami face off in Braves win vs. Red Sox

Daisuke Matsuzaka got a kick out of facing countryman Kenshin Kawakami in his first start since he helped Japan win the World Baseball Classic.

Rich Harden also was feeling pretty good about his first start for the Chicago Cubs in two weeks.

Matsuzaka allowed two hits and an earned run over five innings in his return to the Boston Red Sox. Kawakami gave up a two-run homer to Rocco Baldelli for his only runs, and the Atlanta Braves rallied to beat the Red Sox 4-3 in 10 innings on Monday.

More than 30 Japanese media members in the press box made the game a bit more intense for the starters.

“With so many media, I guess I felt a little more excited,” Kawakami said through an interpreter. “If I was in Japan, I’d probably enjoy (the matchup) also.”

Kawakami, who was signed by the Braves this winter after starring in Japan, pitched six innings and gave up four hits in Kissimmee, Fla. He did not play in the WBC.

Matsuzaka, who was the MVP of the tournament, liked the timing of the pitching pairing as he adjusted from the pressure of the WBC to spring training.

“Luckily today, going up against Kenshin-san on the other side gave me a change to get revved up,” Matsuzaka said through an interpreter.

“When I’m going up against any Japanese player, whether pitcher or position player, I’m always keeping an eye out on what kind of game they’re going to pitch or how they’re doing in the batter’s box.”

With the designated hitter being used, Kawakami didn’t get to hit against Matsuzaka. But the former MVP in Japan certainly showed again that he can get major league hitters out.

“I felt like I pitched well,” said Kawakami, who struck out four and walked two.

In Surprise, Harden returned to the mound for the first time since March 15 because of food poisoning and gave up three homers and five runs in the Cubs’ 8-8, 10-inning tie with the Kansas City Royals.

Harden gave up four hits in 4 1/2 innings while walking two and striking out four.

“I’m feeling good and got my strength back,” he said. “I threw 80 pitches and was still feeling just as strong at the end of it, which is good. We’ll extend it a little more next time. My body is as strong as it’s going to be. I’m ready to go.”

Harden lost seven pounds after eating tainted chicken salad.

“I’m starting to put some weight back on,” he said. “I’m still down a couple of pounds, but that’s it. I’m definitely feeling a whole lot stronger now and it’s back to normal, back to where I was before. My shoulder is feeling really strong, which is good.”

In other news:

• Brewers closer Trevor Hoffman, an ex-Arizona Wildcat, was placed on the 15-day disabled list, ruling the career saves leader out for the start of the season. He strained his right oblique muscle after pitching an inning on March 13 and has had little activity for about three weeks.

• Atlanta traded Josh Anderson to the Detroit Tigers, increasing the chances that rookie Jordan Schafer will open the season as the Braves’ center fielder. In exchange for Anderson, who was out of options, Atlanta received minor league pitcher Rudy Darrow.

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For all of the stories that were archived by the Tucson Citizen newspaper's library in a digital archive between 1993 and 2009, go to Morgue Part 2

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