Red Sox 1, Indians 0

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CLEVELAND (AP)—Daisuke Matsuzaka’s English is still a work in progress. However, the Japanese sensation understands what “bullpen” means to the Boston Red Sox.

That a win usually is only a handful of outs away.

Matsuzaka pitched seven shutout innings to outduel C.C. Sabathia, denying Cleveland’s ace his 14th win, as the Boston Red Sox won their fifth straight, 1-0 over the Indians on Tuesday night.

Matsuzaka (12-7), tagged for a season-high 12 hits in a loss against Cleveland on May 30, gave up just four hits. He had his sights set on a possible complete-game shutout when he was pulled by manager Terry Francona, who used Hideki Okajima in the eighth and Jonathan Papelbon in the ninth.

“When you hear those names, it’s tough to argue,” Matsuzaka said through an interpreter. “I’m sure he’s happy to have those guys.”

The right-hander, who had lost two of his past three starts, allowed just one runner to reach third and improved to 5-2 in his past eight starts by beating one of the AL’s toughest lineups.

The Red Sox, too, made several nice defensive plays to back Matsuzaka. In the seventh, first baseman Kevin Youkilis fielded an attempted sacrifice bunt and threw to second to cut down the lead runner.

“You have to make all of the plays in a game like that,” Francona said. “It’s not easy putting nine zeros up against that team.”

Dice-K, with his dizzying array of pitches, was only slightly better than Sabathia (13-5), who gave up five singles, struck out seven and didn’t allow a walk in seven strong innings. The left-hander was trying to become baseball’s first 14-game winner, but didn’t get any offensive support from the scuffling Indians, now 10-10 in July.

“Dice-K was throwing well,” Sabathia said. “I thought it would be a tight game. In a game like that one run can beat you. It turns out we couldn’t push a run across.”

Matsuzaka was pulled after 98 pitches, giving way to Okajima, who worked a perfect eighth. Papelbon pitched a perfect ninth for his 23rd save in 24 tries as the Red Sox reached the 100-game plateau a major league-best 61-39.

Boston’s bullpen, which has a 1.29 ERA in its past seven games, has converted all 15 save opportunities on the road this season.

Cleveland’s Ryan Garko extended his hitting streak to 17 games.

Two soft singles and a blooper that probably should have been caught plated the game’s lone run in the fourth.

Youkilis dropped a base hit into right, just under the glove of a sprawling Trot Nixon. Manny Ramirez, batting a jaw-dropping .571 against Sabathia, followed with a single to left.

With two outs, Sabathia got Mike Lowell to overswing and hit a routine fly toward left for an apparent easy out. However, rookie Ben Francisco misread the ball, took a step backward and by the time he recovered, couldn’t make a diving catch near the line as Lowell’s pop fell for an RBI single.

Francisco was disappointed he could not bail Sabathia out.

“It was a big swing, you kind of freeze on those sometimes,” Francisco said. “It’s a play you’d like to make but I came up short.”

The Indians threatened in their half of the fourth, putting two on with one out before Matsuzaka struck out Francisco and Josh Barfield, blowing fastballs past both for strike three.

Matsuzaka got some defensive help in the fifth when second baseman Dustin Pedroia, playing a short right field with pull-hitter Travis Hafner up, made a diving backhanded stop and sprung to his feet to throw out Cleveland’s DH.

Matsuzaka was in trouble in the first as the Indians loaded the bases, but the Japanese sensation struck out Jhonny Peralta to end the threat. With Grady Sizemore on second and two outs in the third, Matsuzaka stabbed a hard shot through the box by Hafner, taking away an RBI single.

Notes

Red Sox DH David Ortiz was available to pinch-hit. He will return to the lineup after missing four games with a shoulder injury. The Red Sox went 4-0 without him. “We’re going to quit trying to do that,” Francona cracked. … Matsuzaka was assessed a ball in the fifth by plate umpire Joe West, who ruled he had touched his mouth while on the mound. … RHP Curt Schilling (shoulder tendinitis) will make his second rehab start for Triple-A Pawtucket on Thursday at Toledo. Red Sox manager Terry Francona said Schilling will throw 60-65 pitches. If all goes well, Schilling, who struck out six in three scoreless innings against Louisville on Friday, will make one more start before being brought up. … Garko is batting .456 (26-for-57) during the streak. … Boston’s Julio Lugo has hit safely in 14 consecutive games, a career-best.

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