Daisuke Matsuzaka Pitches Red Sox to Much-Needed Win

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Daisuke Matsuzaka Pitches Red Sox to Much-Needed Win

Final, Red Sox 2-1: The offense remains in a slumber but Daisuke Matsuzaka and some quality relief made that a relative non-issue as the Red Sox secure a big victory to open the 10-game road trip.

Matsuzaka allowed only a solo homer and a single in 6 2/3 innings. Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon did the rest, making a two-run rally in the fourth hold up.

Tim Wakefield and Dallas Braden go in Tuesday night's meeting. First pitch is 10:07 p.m.

Mid 9th, Red Sox 2-1: I'm not trying to scare you or anything, but Jonathan Papelbon's 3.78 ERA against Oakland is higher than any AL team other than New York. His 1.44 WHIP and .290 opponents' batting average are his worst marks vs. AL opponents.

Papelbon is on to get the last three outs. He has converted seven of nine save chances against the A's.

End 8th, Red Sox 2-1: Daniel Bard cleaned up Daisuke Matsuzaka's mess in the seventh. He is forced to clean up his own in the eighth after giving up a single and a walk and going to 3-0 on Red Sox killer Kurt Suzuki.

Finally, on his 19th pitch of the inning, Bard gets Suzuki to ground to second and the Sox are three outs away from a monstrous win.

Mid 8th, Red Sox 2-1: Daniel Bard needed just three pitches to get the last out in the seventh so the eighth is all his. Both he and Jonathan Papelbon have received plenty of time off lately.

12:07 a.m.: If the A's come back to win this one, they can give plenty of credit for the job Jerry Blevins did. He faces two batters and retires them both, the first to strand three runners in the seventh and the second to sit down David Ortiz to open the eighth.

End 7th, Red Sox 2-1: Daniel Bard gets Gabe Gross on a weak pop to third and the Sox breathe a huge sigh of relief. Daisuke Matsuzaka allowed just two hits and walked two in 6 2/3 innings and remains in line for his second straight win.

11:59 p.m.: It's not often you see a pitcher taken out after giving up just his second hit of the game with two outs in the seventh, and on just his 89th pitch, but that's the fate of Daisuke Matsuzaka on Monday. He leaves with runners on second and third and a well-rested Daniel Bard is on in a critical situation.

Mid 7th, Red Sox 2-1: Jerry Blevins, whose name sounds like someone my dad might've picked on back in high school, gets the job done. He gets Bill Hall to ground to second, stranding three runners in the top of the seventh.

The wasted opportunity puts more pressure on Daisuke Matsuzaka. It was at this stage of his last start where he began to tire.

11:43 p.m.: Kevin Cash's fourth hit in 33 at-bats with Boston has helped the Sox load the bases with two outs in the top of the seventh. Ben Sheets is done for the night. Bill Hall is pinch hitting with a chance to give Daisuke Matsuzaka a bigger cushion.

End 6th, Red Sox 2-1: Daisuke Matsuzaka is making it look easy, this from a guy who sometimes makes it look so difficult. He gets three straight grounders to second base and is through the sixth in just nine pitches.

Matsuzaka has thrown only 71 pitches. There's a long way to go, and he did hit the wall in the seventh his last time out, but he has enough in him for his first complete game in over three years.

Mid 6th, Red Sox 2-1: Never make the first or last out at third base. That's what they say. Kevin Youkilis doesn't make many mistakes but he is gunned down trying to go first to third on an Adrian Beltre single with two outs in the sixth.

It takes the bat out of J.D. Drew's hands. Drew is a .306 (11-for-36) hitter against Ben Sheets with four home runs. He will now come up with the bases empty in the seventh as opposed to having a prime run-scoring opportunity in a one-run game in the sixth.

End 5th, Red Sox 2-1: Daisuke Matsuzaka has six strikeouts and has allowed just one hit through five. He has 11 strikeouts against just one walk over his last two starts, as good an indication as any that he is throwing well.

Mid 5th, Red Sox 2-1: The A's flash some leather in the fifth to get Ben Sheets up and down in a heartbeat. Gabe Gross makes a diving grab of a foul pop down the line in right and Coco Crisp slides to catch a sinking liner by Marco Scutaro for the final out.

Looking ahead to Tuesday we may be seeing the last start for Tim Wakefield, at least until another injury emerges. Coincidentally, Josh Beckett, whose return would push Wakefield back to the bullpen, is throwing an extended side session Tuesday afternoon that will determine if he is good to go for Friday.

End 4th, Red Sox 2-1: A 1-6-3 putout at first ends the fourth inning. Marco Scutaro picks up a ball that caromed off Daisuke Matsuzaka's glove and had just enough time to get Adam Rosales at first.

Matsuzaka looks very strong. He has struck out five and thrown 35-of-47 pitches for strikes. The one mistake was the slider to Rajai Davis, but other than that it's been smooth.

Mid 4th, Red Sox 2-1: There's no denying the Red Sox needed a spark offensively (just 14 runs in their last 56 innings). They may have recieved it with a leadoff triple by Eric Patterson in the top of the fourth.

Patterson scores on a David Ortiz sacrifice fly and Adrian Beltre later hammers a Ben Sheets offering for his 15th home run of the season.

J.D. Drew also singled with two outs, part of a 25-pitch inning for Sheets.

End 3rd, Athletics 1-0: You can blame me. I was just starting to look up a Daisuke Matsuzaka statistic that had to do with scoreless innings when Rajai Davis unloaded on a hanging breaking ball by Matsuzaka for a solo homer. No scoreless stat needed.

I did find this somewhat intersting, given how inconsistent Matsuzaka is: his road ERA entering Monday was 4.57 and his home ERA was 4.55. In addition, he has three wins in both categories.

Mid 3rd, 0-0: We're flying along in the early going in Oakland. Ben Sheets has set down nine in a row after freezing Marco Scutaro on an 89 mph fastball, matching his speediest pitch of the night.

End 2nd, 0-0: The Athletics haven't even sniffed a hit so far against Daisuke Matsuzaka. He needed six pitches to strike out the first two batters of the second before getting Mark Ellis on a weak chopper to shortstop.

Mid 2nd, 0-0: Ben Sheets has retired six in a row since giving up a leadoff hit to Marco Scutaro to start the game. Sheets has struggled at times in his first season in Oakland but has been better of late, posting a 2.79 ERA in his last three starts.

End 1st, 0-0: Daisuke Matsuzaka bucks a pair of trends to start things off. First, he has a rare clean first inning (11.25 ERA in the opening frame entering the night) and he also retires Kurt Suzuki.

The Oakland catcher is 4-for-8 against Matsuzaka and went 6-for-14 with three homers in a three-game series at Fenway Park last month.

Mid 1st, 0-0: The slumping Red Sox offense leaves Marco Scutaro at third base to end the top of the first inning. Scutaro, who singled on the second pitch of the game, is a .307 hitter (43-for-140) when leading off an inning.

10:00 p.m.: So who's in for the long haul? We will carry you through the Sox' first American League West Coast game of the season, so if you need something to keep you awake just hit refresh on the live blog repeatedly.

Maybe I'll throw out some wacky opinions in the seventh inning or so, just to make you sit up straight.

I jest, of course, as this is a critical contest for the Sox. All that keeps popping up in my head, however, is Daisuke Matsuzaka's last start here, when he went one inning, gave up five runs and then went on the DL.

Let's hope for a smoother result.

9:12 p.m.: As the Sox get set to visit the three West Coast American League teams, they have to try to put their past behind them. By that I don't just mean the recent 3-8 stretch, but also their past trips to Oakland, Seattle and Anaheim, which have not gone well of late.

Boston has a losing record each of the past five seasons in these towns (collectively) and is 24-39 overall in that stretch.

Throw in the fact that Oakland has won five straight and the odds are stacked against the Sox a bit.

It may not mean much, but it's something to think about.

8:52 p.m.: The rumor mill is picking up steam these days and we will try to fit in some rumors each and every night of the trip. The latest, courtesy of Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, has the Sox and Colorado talking about a deal involving catcher Chris Iannetta.

The 27-year-old Iannetta has been relegated to back-up duty behind Miguel Olivo and has not taken off after somewhat of a breakout 2008 campaign, but he would represent a massive upgrade offensively over Kevin Cash and Dusty Brown.

If the club has any concerns that Victor Martinez will continue to be slow to come back from his broken left thumb, a move such as this might go from intriguing to necessary.

Iannetta has come back strong from a demoition early in 2010. He is hitting .283 with five home runs in limited duty since the start of June.

Our own Dan Podheiser also takes a look at some relievers the Sox may target.

7:45 p.m.: The Red Sox' daunting 10-game road trip is just hours from beginning. Here are a few pregame notes from Oakland, followed by Monday's starting lineups:

As mentioned over the weekend, Mike Lowell went to New York while the team traveled west to receive another cortisone shot in his right hip. He is still on target to begin rehabbing in Pawtucket this week, likely Thursday.

Also in Pawtucket is Jeremy Hermida, who joins the PawSox on Monday after a few days with Double-A Portland. He will be activated Thursday, provided all goes well.

Clay Buchholz threw his side session in Oakland. He will be activated Wednesday.

The lineups are as follows:

Red Sox

Marco Scutaro, SS
Eric Patterson, 2B
David Ortiz, DH
Kevin Youkilis, 1B
Adrian Beltre, 3B
J.D. Drew, RF
Daniel Nava, LF
Darnell McDonald, CF
Kevin Cash, C
 
A's
 
Coco Crisp, CF
Daric Barton, 1B
Kurt Suzuki, C
Jack Cust, DH
Kevin Kouzmanoff, 3B
Mark Ellis, 2B
Gabe Gross, RF
Rajai Davis, LF
Cliff Pennington, SS

8 a.m.: A daunting 10-game road trip begins Monday when the reeling Red Sox take on the Oakland Athletics in the first of three straight.

The Sox have lost eight of 11 after Sunday's 4-2 loss to the Texas Rangers. The slide has dropped them 6 1/2 games back in the American League East and three behind the wild-card leading Tampa Bay Rays.

Boston will turn to Daisuke Matsuzaka to try to stop the bleeding. His up-and-down campaign continued against Toronto before the All-Star break, when he allowed two runs in six innings.

The A's, who have won five in a row, start Ben Sheets.

The Red Sox are 22-20 on the road.

First pitch is at 10:07 p.m.

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