Matsuzaka shines again, Boston beats Cleveland 6-2

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BOSTON (AP)—Daisuke Matsuzaka(notes) keeps showing he’s healthy and ready for the postseason after nearly three months on the disabled list.

Alex Gonzalez may not be.

Boston’s smooth fielding shortstop who has hit surprisingly well since being obtained from Cincinnati on Aug. 14 was hit on the right hand by Kerry Wood’s(notes) pitch in the eighth inning of Boston’s 6-2 win Friday night over the Cleveland Indians in which Matsuzaka pitched his fourth straight strong game.

An X-ray showed “a line” on the outside part of his hand, which was wrapped after the game, Gonzalez said. Further X-rays were scheduled for Saturday.

“I can move it,” he said. “I don’t feel any pain.”

Jed Lowrie(notes) replaced him, but the Red Sox have little depth at shortstop with Lowrie coming back from a wrist injury and Nick Green(notes) sidelined with a leg problem.

Boston’s pitchers, though, are rolling as they prepare for next week’s AL division series against the Los Angeles Angels.

Matsuzaka (4-6) has been outstanding since a minor right shoulder strain put him on the disabled list until Sept. 15. Jon Lester(notes) pitched 6 2-3 shutout innings against Cleveland on Thursday six days after being knocked out of a game by a line drive that hit his right leg.

And Josh Beckett(notes) is scheduled to pitch Saturday night after missing his previous start with a back problem.

Matsuzaka “continues to look like he’s getting stronger,” Boston manager Terry Francona said.

He allowed two earned runs on five hits in six innings with seven strikeouts and three walks. He was 1-5 when he was sidelined with a minor right shoulder strain and 3-1 since then. His ERA in those four starts is 2.22, lowering his season mark from 8.23 to 5.76.

“I was able to work on points that I felt were going to be important going into the playoffs and I had a real good feel for those points,” Matsuzaka said through a translator. “The most important point was being able to battle with runners on base.”

The Red Sox clinched the AL wild card Tuesday night and are expected to use Lester and Beckett in the first two games with the Angels. The order hasn’t been announced. Matsuzaka and Clay Buchholz(notes) are possible starters for Game 3.

“It’s a different atmosphere” with a postseason berth assured, Mike Lowell(notes) said. “But I still think there are a lot of things guys can work on.”

Jeremy Sowers(notes) (6-11) left after three innings trailing 4-0. The Indians scored twice in the fifth but set a club record with its 13th consecutive road loss, breaking the mark set in 1963 and tied in 1991.

“They just kept fouling everything that I was throwing off,” Sowers said. “They all have very good eyes. They don’t chase stuff. They force you to put the ball over the plate.”

The win was Boston’s second straight over Cleveland after six consecutive losses—three each to the New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays.

The Red Sox took a 1-0 lead before making an out as Jacoby Ellsbury(notes) led off the first with a double, took third on his 69th stolen base of the year and kept going when catcher Kelly Shoppach’s(notes) throw went into left field for an error.

Ellsbury “is one of the very few in the game that can do that sort of thing on the basepaths,” said Cleveland manager Eric Wedge, who was told Wednesday he won’t return after Sunday’s season finale. “He’s a hungry young player.”

The Red Sox added three runs in the third when Jason Varitek(notes) hit a leadoff double, Gonzalez was hit by a pitch for the first time and Ellsbury walked, loading the bases. Dustin Pedroia(notes) followed with a sacrifice fly, Victor Martinez(notes) singled in a run and Jason Bay(notes) doubled home another.

Martinez hit in his 28th straight start and is batting .358 in that stretch. He broke a tie with Seattle’s Ichiro Suzuki(notes) for the most consecutive starts with at least one hit in the AL this year. It’s the longest Red Sox streak since Johnny Damon(notes) hit in 29 straight starts in 2005.

Kevin Youkilis(notes) hit a two-run double in the seventh.

Matsuzaka began the game by giving up a double to Michael Brantley(notes). Then he retired the next 12.

But he struggled through the fifth when Travis Hafner(notes) doubled, took third on a wild pitch and scored on Luis Valbuena’s(notes) one-out single. Valbuena stole second and, after Shoppach walked, scored on Trevor Crowe’s(notes) single.

Notes: Cleveland has scored three runs or less in 11 of its last 19 games. … Boston RF Rocco Baldelli(notes) strained a left hip flexor when he reached first on a throwing error by third baseman Jhonny Peralta(notes). Josh Reddick(notes) pinch ran and replaced him in the field. … Baldelli started in place of J.D. Drew(notes), who missed his second straight game with a sore shoulder.

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