61-39: Matsuzaka denies Sabathia win 14

The Red Sox squeaked by the Indians by the narrowest of margins tonight, as they overcame Cleveland’s ace, 1-0.

It wasn’t a picture-perfect start, as Cleveland loaded the bases in the first inning, but Daisuke Matsuzaka (12-7) pitched seven scoreless innings, four-hitting the Indians and striking out five. He walked three, but he avoided any prolonged outages of control in this game. The only extra base hit he surrendered was a leadoff double by Ryan Garko in the bottom of the 4th that ended up being harmless. This was the second of Matsuzaka’s starts that ended in a 1-0 victory. He’s also won 2-1 and lost by that margin twice.

Matsuzaka was pulled after just 98 pitches. I’m actually glad that the Sox are reining in his pitch counts more recently, because he’s been among the leaders in pitcher abuse points (PAPs) all season long. We need all of our guys’ best stuff in September and October, and if it means yanking starters a couple of innings early in July, so be it.

Hideki Okajima and Jonathan Papelbon provided their usual 1-2 punch in the eighth and ninth innings. Papelbon punctuated his 23rd save of the year with an exclamation mark by striking out Francisco just looking at the smoke coming off some high heat, right down the heart of the plate. In all, our pitching staff stranded 18 Indians on the basepaths, and that made all the difference.

Indians ace C.C. Sabathia (13-5) matched Dice-K inning for inning. You could even argue that he outpitched Matsuzaka, as Sabathia walked none and struck out seven. However, the only run of the game scored on a bloop single by Mike Lowell in the fourth inning. After singles by Kevin Youkilis and Manny Ramirez, Lowell stood at bat with two out. He hit a routine high fly to left field, which rookie Ben Francisco seemed to misjudge at first, and, diving, he trapped it against the ground, allowing Youkilis to score from second base. Youkilis had reached on a similar bloop to right in the same inning.

Playing the David Ortiz-like overshift, Dustin Pedroia made a nice diving grab on a Travis Hafner grounder in shallow right field in the fifth, and threw him out. Speaking of Papi, he was available to pinch-hit, and will likely return to the lineup tomorrow.

Finally, luck seems to be favoring the Red Sox again, but the Yankees are keeping in lock step with us for now. As of the time of this writing, it looks like it will remain 7 1/2 games tonight. With only one week left until the trading deadline, it should be interesting to see what happens.


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