CLEVELAND – The Red Sox rolled out right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka on Monday and the Indians promptly rolled snake eyes.
With Matsuzaka doing a number on Cleveland hitters all night, the Indians dropped a 4-1 decision to Boston in the first of a four-game series at Progressive Field.
Matsuzaka, who spent the first month of the season on the disabled list with a neck strain, allowed just four hits, while striking out five over eight innings.
“We just couldn’t get anything going offensively against Matsuzaka,” said Indians manager Manny Acta. “Our plan to get his pitch count high, he just put that aside by being aggressive and putting our hitters down.”
The Indians, who mustered six hits on the night, advanced just one runner to second base off Matsuzaka, and it was on a steal from Trevor Crowe after Cleveland’s center fielder walked with two outs in the third inning.
Cleveland got its lone run in the ninth inning on a solo home run from Austin Kearns off fill-in closer Daniel Bard, who assumed the role when Jonathan Papelbon was placed on the bereavement list prior to the game.
Matsuzaka extended the misery of an Indians offense that has struggled for the majority of the season by being aggressive around the strike zone, something the Japanese-born right-hander has avoided in the past.
“He mixed his speeds pretty well and he did a good job of making the pitches when he had to,” said Cleveland shortstop Jason Donald, who reached base twice and had one of his team’s hits off Matsuzaka. “He’s a good pitcher. He’s with the Red Sox for a reason.
“There isn’t anybody giving away at-bats. No one is trying not to get a hit. Obviously the results aren’t what we want, but you have to continue to compete.”
The Indians got starting pitching as well, with Fausto Carmona continuing his solid first half by allowing just two earned runs on five hits over six-plus innings. Carmona walked six and runners aboard in five of the six innings he worked, yet the right-hander was still able to keep his club in the game.
“I think Fausto has really come a long way in keeping his composure and not letting the big inning beat him,” Acta said. “In the past, he would self-destruct when he got runners on base. He kept us in the game.”
With the lack of run support, Carmona would have needed to pitch like Matsuzaka to have earned the win.
“I want runs but I can’t think about that,” Carmona said. “I have to think about pitching. I think I had trouble today with making the first pitch a strike.”
Boston got the only run it needed in the opening inning after former Cleveland minor leaguer Marco Scutaro started the game with a double and scored on a sacrifice fly from Kevin Youkilis. It was one of three doubles from Scutaro on the night.
Boston added an unearned run in the third that began with a throwing error on Carmona. A sacrifice fly from Victor Martinez put Boston in front 3-0 in the seventh.
Martinez went 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI in his first game back in Cleveland after being traded to Boston at the deadline last year.
The Red Sox scored their final run in the eighth after the first three hitters reached base off Indians reliever Hector Ambriz
Progressive Field has not been kind to the Indians, who are 8-15 there and have lost 13 of the last 17 games at home.
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or firstname.lastname@example.org.