It was good to see Carl Crawford get a couple of hits tonight, but he real story is obvious. Daisuke Matsuzaka was lights out for the second straight game.
Entering Monday's start, the righthander's ERA was above 12.00 and there were questions as to how long the Sox would continue to watch him struggle. After another no run, one-hit performance tonight, his ERA is all the way down to 4.09.
The Red Sox starting pitching continues to excel, but tonight was really a solid effort all around for the Sox.
Mid 9th, Red Sox 5-0: Howie Kendrick, who pinch-hit for left fielder Reggie Willits, remained in the game at first base. Mark Trumbo, meanwhile, came out and was replaced by Peter Bourjos. Bourjos played center, while Vernon Wells shifted over to left field.
In his second inning of work, Bulger retired Ellsbury, Pedroia and Gonzalez in order.
Pedroia is the only hitter in the Red Sox lineup without a hit tonight. Ellsbury, Lowrie and Crawford each have two hits.
It looks like Daniel Bard will take over in the ninth to try and close this thing out. He has pitched well since getting touched up for four runs in his first appearance of the season.
End 8th, Red Sox 5-0: That should do it for Dice-K tonight. Wow.
What a performance for the unpredictable starter. Ever since Monday's gem, it's been widely debated how he would follow-up. Well, he answered a lot of questions with his performance tonight.
Matsuzaka pitched eight shutout innings, while allowing only one hit and striking out nine. At 115 pitches, though, his night is likely over.
This was exactly what manager Terry Francona needed. Jonathan Papelbon and Bobby Jenks have both pitched in three straight games, meaning the Sox would have had to rely on a secondary cast of relievers to pitch the seventh inning on. Albers, Wheeler and Bard are all formidable relievers, but if you can cut out the middle man, you take that every day of the week and twice on Sunday.
Matsuzaka finished his night off by leadoff man Maicer Izturis to ground out to second.
Dice-K's fastball-changeup combination was lethal tonight, and now we'll get to debate how he'll follow up on this gem.
Oh, and good to see Tom Brady coming out for the game.
Mid 8th, Red Sox 5-0: The Sox threatened to mount a rally in the eighth as Jed Lowrie and J.D. Drew strung together back-to-back base hits. But the new Angels pitcher, Jason Bulger, was able to get out of the inning unscathed.
The final line on Ervin Santana: five earned runs on nine hits through seven innings. He struck out nine, walked one and threw 104 pitches.
It looks like Dice-K will be coming out for the eighth inning despite being at over 100 pitches.
End 7th, Red Sox 5-0: As good as Dice-K was in his last start, he's been even better tonight.
On Patriots' Day, he threw seven shutout innings, while striking out three on 89 pitches.
Tonight, he's pitched seven shutout innings, while striking out nine on 104 pitches.
In the seventh, he got Vernon Wells to ground out before striking out Alberto Callaspo and Hank Conger to end the inning.
The only hit off Dice-K remains the comebacker that Callaspo hit back in the second inning.
Mid 7th, Red Sox 5-0: Santana was able to last another inning. With such a high pitch count early, it was hard to imagine him lasting seven innings, but that's what he did. If I was to guess, I'd say the book is closed on Santana for the night.
He finished by getting Pedroia to line out to second, Gonzalez to fly out to Willits in left and striking out Youkilis for the third time tonight.
Santana actually got ahead 0-2 on Youkilis before brushing him back with a 94-mph fastball up around the head. It's tough to tell if there's anything behind it, but Youkilis did take Santana deep back in the fifth inning
End 6th, Red Sox 5-0: After retiring Izturis via a fly out and Aybar via a line out to third, Bobby Abreu was able to work a two-out walk, the third one that Matsuzaka has offered tonight. But that was all the Angels could muster up.
Matsuzaka has allowed only one hit through the first six innings tonight, while striking out seven. He's thrown 89 pitches, so another inning or two should be in order.
Mid 6th, Red Sox 5-0: The captain delivered in the sixth.
Crawford collected his second hit of the game, and Varitek followed by lining a double off the base of the wall in right. It's the first RBI for Tek since June 29 of last season.
Nice little two-out rally for the Sox, and it gives Dice-K another run to work with. Now it's back to work for the Japanese hurler.
End 5th, Red Sox 4-0: Well Dice-K is officially wheeling and dealing right now. He struck out Conger, Trumbo and Willits in order in the fifth and seems to be in complete control right now.
He's mixing his pitches well, showing a good combination of fastballs and off-speed stuff.
His last pitch to Willits was a beauty, as he painted the outside corner.
Let's see how deep Dice-K can go into this game. You'd have to think Terry Francona would love to use him as long as possible with both Papelbon and Jenks likely unavailable.
Mid 5th, Red Sox 4-0: After looking silly in his first two plate appearances of the night, Kevin Youkilis went the other way on a 93-mph fastball for a two-run shot.
Prior to that, Jacoby Ellsbury reached on his second hit of the night and stole second base despite a pitchout from Santana.
I mentioned earlier that the Sox would look to run on the Angels' rookie catcher, but stealing on a pitchout shows Ellsbury's pure speed. Wouldn't it be awesome to see Ellsbury and Crawford line up and race one-on-one? Who are you guys taking in that slobberknocker?
Santana has seven strikeouts on the night, but he's getting out-pitched right now.
End 4th, Red Sox 2-0: Dice-K issued a walk to Bobby Abreu to begin the inning, but three straight Angels flyouts leaves him stranded at first.
Abreu didn't go anywhere this time around, but the 37-year-old did steal 24 bases last year and 30 the year before. Abreu's speed has always been somewhat of a surprise to me given his big frame.
Mid 4th, Red Sox 2-0: Just what the doctor ordered for Santana in the fourth; a quick inning. It took Santana only eight pitches to get through the bottom of the Red Sox order.
J.D. Drew went down looking on four pitches, and Carl Crawford and Jason Varitek each grounded out.
Santana gave the Sox a heavy dose of fastballs that inning.
End 3rd, Red Sox 2-0: Another solid inning for Dice-K. He struck out two and looks to be settling into a groove.
The Sox will send Crawford, Drew and Varitek to the plate in the top of the fourth as they look to build upon their 2-0 lead.
Mid 3rd, Red Sox 2-0: The Sox keep on running. Two pitches after singling to center, Jacoby Ellsbury picked up his fourth stolen base of the season. The speedy outfielder then pushed the envelope on a flyball to right-center, advancing to third despite a strong throw from Vernon Wells.
The next batter, Adrian Gonzalez, ripped one past Mark Trumbo at first base for an RBI single. Gonzalez now has 10 RBI in 2011. It's great to see both Crawford and Gonzalez contributing early in this one.
Youkilis struck out for the second time tonight, which has to make you wonder if there is any lingering effect from the shin injury that kept him out of Friday night's game.
The strikeout of Youkilis makes it five K's for Santana tonight, two shy of a season-high. The Sox are really making him labor here early, though. Santana has already thrown 57 pitches through three innings.
Lowrie had a chance to extend the lead with runners at first and third and two outs, but he hit a high fly ball to center that Vernon Wells was able to haul in.
End 2nd, Red Sox 1-0: Scary situation for Dice-K. Alberto Callaspo sent his offering right back up the middle, forcing Dice-K to bat it down with his glove in defense.
A couple of inches either way, and it could have been ugly. But Dice-K was able to laugh it off and keep his cool to retire the next two batters.
No damage done physically or on the scoreboard, so chalk it up as a successful inning for the righthander.
Mid 2nd, Red Sox 1-0: Well that ought to make a lot of fans in Boston smile. Carl Crawford delivered the game's first run on a base hit up the middle.
Angels shortstop Erick Aybar made a nice bid for it, but it deflected off his glove on the diving attempt and trickled into right field.
Jed Lowrie, who doubled two batters earlier, scored the run. Lowrie continues to show why he's a must-play every night right now for manager Terry Francona.
Santana struck out Jason Varitek to end the inning. He has four strikeouts thus far, but the Red Sox jump out to the early lead. Now, here comes the second inning that has plagued Dice-K this season.
The second inning has actually been Dice-K's best throughout his career, though. Matsuzaka has an ERA of 2.00 in 99 innings of second inning ball. Useless stat? Maybe. But interesting to say the least.
End 1st, 0-0: If the first inning is any indication, things are looking up for Dice-K tonight.
He retired the Angels in order, which included striking out shortstop Erick Aybar on a nifty changeup.
The real test will come in the second inning, though, in which Matsuzaka has allowed seven runs this season. Believe it or not, he's only allowed two hits beyond the second inning in his three starts this season — a span of six innings.
Mid 1st, 0-0: Ervin Santana looked sharp to begin the game, making quick work of Jacoby Ellsbury.
It's always interesting to see who the Sox plug in as their leadoff man on a nightly basis. Ellsbury hasn't exactly thrived when given the opportunity this season, but the Sox are still trying different lineups and feeling things out here in 2011.
Dustin Pedroia works a walk, and proceeds to steal second base. The Sox might try to run more than usual tonight with a rookie catcher behind the plate for the Angels.
After an Adrian Gonzalez opposite field flyout, Santana racks up another strikeout. The 28-year-old looks sharp early; emphasis on the early, though.
9:04 p.m.: It's just about time for the first pitch. Ervin Santana gets ready to take the the hill. The Angels will be donning their red alternates tonight.
8:40 p.m.: Peter Abraham says both Jonathan Papelbon and Bobby Jenks might be unavailable for the Sox tonight. That would mean the Sox would likely turn to Matt Albers and Dan Wheeler to set up for Daniel Bard should the opportunity present itself.
7:53 p.m.: The biggest question going into Saturday's game is which Daisuke Matsuzaka will show up. Adding to the unpredictability of Dice-K is his career stat line versus the Angels.
Matsuzaka is 2-1 in three career starts versus the Halos. In two of the starts, he's given up five runs or more. In the third — which came in 2009 — he threw six innings of shutout ball. He is quite the mystery, but hopefully he'll be able to build off the gem he threw on Patriots' Day.
Ervin Santana is 2-2 with a 4.31 ERA against the Red Sox in eight career starts.
6:40 p.m.: The Angels' lineup is ready to go, and there's a bit of a shakeup in the outfield, which shouldn't come as a surprise given how shaky they looked out there last night.
Bobby Abreu will head out to right field, while Reggie Willits will take over in left. Vernon Wells will shift over to center, and Torii Hunter will get the night off in the field, as he will DH instead.
Maicer Izturis returns to the Angels lineup tonight as well. He will lead off for the Halos.
Here is the complete lineup:
Maicer Izturis, 2B
Erick Aybar, SS
Bobby Abreu, RF
Torii Hunter, DH
Vernon Wells, CF
Alberto Callaspo, 3B
Hank Conger, C
Mark Trumbo, 1B
Reggie Willits, LF
5:16 p.m.: The Sox' lineup is set, and it looks like Jacoby Ellsbury will lead off once again. It marks the eighth time this season that Ellsbury has taken on that role. He's only 5-for-28 in the leadoff spot, but manager Terry Francona seems to like his speed at the top of the order.
Kevin Youkilis, who missed Friday's game after fouling a ball off his shin on Thursday night, returns to the lineup and will hit cleanup.
The red-hot Jed Lowrie stays in the lineup again, this time at shortstop in place of Marco Scutaro, whose early-season struggles continue.
Here's a look at the complete Red Sox lineup:
Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Kevin Youkilis, 3B
David Ortiz, DH
Jed Lowrie, SS
J.D. Drew, RF
Carl Crawford, LF
Jason Varitek, C
8 a.m.: The Red Sox escaped another close one on Friday night, as their winning ways continued with a 4-3 victory over the Angels.
The Sox and the Angels will match up once again on Saturday evening for a 9:05 p.m. start at Angel Stadium of Anaheim.
Daisuke Matsuzaka will get the start for the Red Sox, and he'll be looking to prove that his Patriot's Day gem was not a fluke as he matches up with Angels righty Ervin Santana. Matsuzaka allowed just one hit in seven solid innings on Monday, and he'll need another strong performance to stay in Red Sox Nation's good graces.
It will be interesting to see who Matsuzaka will be throwing to behind the dish on Saturday, as Jarrod Saltalamacchia had another shaky outing on Friday against the Angels. His sloppy efforts behind the plate allowed two runs to cross in the eighth, and almost cost the Sox their lead.
Check back here throughout the day, as we'll continually update the live blog with lineups and other important information for the evening start in Anaheim.