Red Sox 4, Devil Rays 1

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BOSTON (AP)—Daisuke Matsuzaka got the run support he’s been lacking—and from an unlikely source.

Julio Lugo went 2-for-3 with two RBIs to break an 0-for-33 slump, and Matsuzaka pitched eight shutout innings on Tuesday night to lead Boston to a 4-1 victory over Tampa Bay. It was the Devil Rays’ ninth straight loss.

“I think you could see him take that deep breath,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said after Lugo recorded his first hit since June 14 and first RBI since June 8. “The two runs he drove in were huge, not just for him to feel good about himself, but for our ball club to have a little cushion.”

Matsuzaka (10-5) struck out nine while allowing four hits and one walk, fanning countryman Akinori Iwamura for the third time with a runner on third to finish the eighth. The Japanese ace has allowed two runs or fewer in six consecutive starts.

“I don’t think that it’s complete, but I do feel like I’m getting back to a good spot,” Matsuzaka said through a translator. “I’ve really been experiencing that over the past few starts.”

But even while lowering his ERA from 4.83 to 3.53, Matsuzaka has won just three times since May 25, getting a total of seven runs of support in his six previous starts. Lugo took care of that with a two-run single off Scott Kazmir (5-5) in Boston’s three-run second.

“As a starting pitcher, having run support early on in the game of course helps,” Matsuzaka said. “But I wasn’t too worried about the score. It’s similar to before; I wasn’t worried.”

Kazmir allowed four runs, three earned, and six hits while striking out six in six innings. He walked three—all in a row, throwing 10 consecutive balls— to load the bases with nobody out in the second.

“Take away the second inning and it’d be a whole different ballgame,” Kazmir said. “It felt like a couple were good pitches. But once you get an ump in ball mode it’s tough to get him out. So I just had to bear down and go down the middle.”

Devil Rays manager Joe Maddon said he was encouraged when Kazmir retired the Red Sox in order in the first.

“The way he began tonight, I thought he was going to be righteous,” Maddon said. “He was just pounding the zone—boom, boom, boom. Then he lost it, and then he recaptured it.”

Jason Varitek made it 1-0 with an RBI groundout, and one out later Lugo singled to center to give Boston a 3-0 lead. The sold-out Fenway Park crowd— which had taken to booing the shortstop lately—rose to its feet to applaud the end of his 0-for-33 slump—the longest for a Red Sox player since 1991.

Lugo showed little reaction, but outfielder Manny Ramirez gave him a lengthy hug in the infield on their way out to their positions after the inning was over.

“You can’t not think about things like that,” Lugo said when asked if the slump was on his mind. “They’ve been very supportive, especially Manny.”

Carlos Pena of the Devil Rays hit his 19th homer in the ninth off Jonathan Papelbon.

Lugo, who signed a four-year, $36-million contract on the same day as Matsuzaka’s much-heralded flight to Boston, also singled in the seventh and got picked off first base. He was the only batter on either team with more than one hit, raising his average to .194; it had been .265 on May 14.


CF Coco Crisp returned from a four-game absence due to a sprained left thumb. He made a nice play on Iwamura’s sixth-inning shot off the Green Monster. But the throw to second was dropped after the tag by 2B Dustin Pedroia. Umpire Gerry Davis was about to call Iwamura out, but signaled safe when the ball rolled away. … The Devil Rays and Red Sox play 18 of their final 81 games against each other. … Tampa Bay reinstated RHP Juan Salas from the restricted list after he served a 50-game suspension for violating baseball’s drug testing program. RHP Tim Corcoran (right elbow strain) was transferred to the 60-day DL. … Ramirez went 0-for-2 against Kazmir, making him 4-for-31 against the Devil Rays lefty in his career. That’s Ramirez’s lowest average against any pitcher whom he’s faced at least 30 times. … The Red Sox planned to announce on Wednesday that they have reached a strategic alliance with the Chiba Lotte Marines of the Japanese Leagues.

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