Dice-K lasts 3 hitless in major-league first

NEW YORK -- As anyone who has followed Daisuke Matsuzaka's career knows, it's not true that Sunday was the first time Matsuzaka has pitched on back-to-back days.

Not even close.

Matsuzaka's legend in Japan began to be written when he pitched a 17-inning complete game in the national high school tournament, then pitched an inning the next day for a save, then threw a nine-inning no-hitter the day after that.

Of course, that was 16 years ago. It still brings a smile to Matsuzaka's face, as it did when it was brought up after his three hitless innings in the New York Mets' 14-inning, 4-3 win over the Atlanta Braves Sunday.

Matsuzaka's reaction was slightly different when he was asked what he thinks of his new role of pitching out of the bullpen. He looked, he thought, and he seemed to carefully consider his answer.

"I don't want to use not having done it before as an excuse," he said through an interpreter. "This is my role right now. I just want to go out there and do well."

Matsuzaka did very well Sunday, when he entered the game in the 11th inning. He walked the first batter he faced, but then retired the next nine in order, five of them on strikeouts.

And yes, it was the first time he had appeared on back-to-back days in a major-league game. But not the first time he had ever done it.