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Johnson ready to take on Dice-K

Johnson ready to take on Dice-K

The eyes of two nations will be on Chase Field Sunday afternoon when Arizona's Randy Johnson takes the hill against Boston's Daisuke Matsuzaka in the D-backs' series finale against the Red Sox.

"It's a good matchup for baseball," Arizona's Eric Byrnes said. "You've got obviously one of the most highly acclaimed pitchers to ever come to the United States versus one of the most highly acclaimed pitchers from the United States, so it's going to be fun to be a part of."

Matsuzaka, Boston's prized free-agent signing from Japan, has not disappointed, ranking fourth in the American League with seven wins and fifth with 76 strikeouts.

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Johnson has returned to his old dominant form in his past four starts, going 3-0 with a 1.52 ERA and 33 strikeouts. He threw one-hitters without giving up a run in six innings twice in that stretch.

"That's a marquee matchup right there," Arizona manager Bob Melvin said. "It's going to be an exciting game. We haven't seen Matsuzaka at all, just on TV. They've seen a little bit of Randy last year though I think he's pitching a little better and differently than he has."

With this being Matsuzaka's rookie year, none of the D-backs have faced him. From watching him on television, Melvin called Matsuzaka's mix of pitches "tremendous."

"You can't ever tell what's coming one after the other," Melvin said. "At times it can be velocity, at times it can be the whatever pitch, the gyro pitch or whatever. He's got a lot of weapons out there, and that's first and foremost the thing I notice when I watch him."

The game will mark Matsuzaka's first appearance in the batter's box in the Majors, with this being the first time the Red Sox have face a National League squad on the road. In the Nippon Professional Baseball League in Japan, Matsuzaka hit 4-for-19 (.211) with a home run and three RBIs. He relishes the opportunity to face Johnson.

"I always enjoyed facing the best pitchers," Matsuzaka said. "It gives me a chance to see the pitches thrown by the best pitchers. In this case, I'll get to see it with my own eyes. I'm looking forward to that."

Melvin said third baseman Chad Tracy will likely be activated before the game and will be in the starting lineup if that's the case. Tracy has been on the disabled list since May 15 with a strained rib cage.

Melvin won't be doing him any favors by having him start out against Matsuzaka, although the manager said the matchup does not factor in his decision.

Pitching matchup
ARI: LHP Randy Johnson (3-2, 3.78 ERA)
Johnson passed Roger Clemens for second place on the all-time strikeout list Tuesday against San Francisco, but Clemens has since regained his spot in second after striking out seven Saturday. This figures to be a back-and-forth battle all season. Johnson also allowed two runs on seven hits over six innings in the outing against the Giants. He beat Philadelphia on May 30 by throwing a one-hitter over six innings without allowing a run. Johnson is 15-7 with a 4.57 ERA in his career against the Red Sox.

BOS: RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka (7-4, 4.63 ERA)
Matsuzaka made his seventh quality start Tuesday at Oakland, when he gave up two runs on seven hits over seven innings but took the defeat in a 2-0 loss. He threw 130 pitches, the most by a Red Sox hurler since last April. Matsuzaka also lost May 30 at Cleveland, when he gave up six runs and 12 hits in 5 2/3 innings. Before that Matsuzaka had not been defeated since April 17 at Toronto, a span of seven starts. The outing will be Matsuzaka's first in a National League ballpark.

Player to watch
Tracy will likely make his return from a strained rib cage. Melvin said if the D-backs activate Tracy, who has not played since May 15, he will start.

Tickets
 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• 3TV-HD, KWBA, KPHE 44 (Español)

On radio
• KTAR 620, KSUN (Español)

Up next
• Monday: Off-day
• Tuesday: Diamondbacks (Brandon Webb, 6-3, 3.13) at Yankees (Chien-Ming Wang, 5-4, 3.73), 4:05 p.m. MST
• Wednesday: Diamondbacks (Livan Hernandez, 5-3, 3.66) at Yankees (Mike Mussina, 2-3, 5.63), 4:05 p.m. MST

Michael Schwartz is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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