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Dice-K rocked as Braves rout Red Sox

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BOSTON (AP)

Daisuke Matsuzaka's latest chance to stop his struggles may be his last for a while. "If I keep going like this, I have no right to be a part of this rotation," Matsuzaka said through an interpreter after being shelled from the start in the Atlanta Braves' 8-2 win over the Boston Red Sox on Friday night. He fell to 1-5 with an 8.23 ERA. And with John Smoltz due for his first start next Thursday after six rehab outings, Matsuzaka could be the odd man out. "We have the ability to be a little flexible in what we do. (I) don't know if it makes a lot of sense to do something before the off day," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. Matsuzaka gave up a homer on the first pitch of the game to Nate McLouth. He let the first five batters reach base, got yanked in the fifth inning, allowed six runs and lost to his less heralded countryman, Kenshin Kawakami. Kawakami cost the Braves just $23 million for three years when he signed in January, far less than the $103 million - $51 for the right to negotiate with Matsuzaka and $52 million for a six-year contract - that Dice-K cost the Red Sox. Kawakami (4-6) allowed two hits and two runs in six innings, the ninth straight start in which he gave up three earned runs or less. "He was pounding the strike zone. We had a great game plan," catcher Brian McCann said. "He rises to the occasion." Jason Bay got both of Boston's hits off Kawakami before three relievers held the Red Sox hitless. "A two-hitter in this ballpark, you don't see that very often," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "He made good pitches." Boston still has the AL's best home record at 23-10 but kept struggling at the plate after managing just one hit, a homer by Kevin Youkilis, in a 2-1 loss to Florida on Thursday night that ended in the top of the sixth because of rain. Garret Anderson went 3 for 3 with four RBIs as the Braves finally gave Kawakami support with seven runs while he was in the game. They had scored just 24 in his other 69 1-3 innings. "We were swinging early," McLouth said. "I guess people had the feeling they wanted to be aggressive and we had pretty good results." Atlanta won its second straight game since breaking a four-game losing streak with a 7-0 win at Cincinnati in which McLouth had two hits, a homer and four RBIs. The Braves came out swinging against Matsuzaka, who usually runs up high pitch counts, and had three hits on the first four pitches - the total amount of hits the Red Sox had Thursday and Friday. The crowd booed. "Everybody knows that I haven't been performing well," Matsuzaka said. "As a professional, I have to accept (it) when I get a reaction like that." After McLouth's 12th homer this season and third in 14 games since being traded by Pittsburgh, Atlanta loaded the bases on a single by Yunel Escobar, a double by Chipper Jones and a walk to McCann. Anderson's walk made it 2-0, but Matsuzaka escaped with a strikeout and double play, extending his streak to 17 straight hitless at bats against with the bases loaded. The Braves added two runs in the fourth on McLouth's RBI double and Escobar's run-scoring single. They made it 6-0 in the fifth on consecutive doubles by McCann and Anderson that drove Matsuzaka from the game, and a sacrifice fly by Casey Kotchman off Justin Masterson. The Red Sox finally scored in the sixth with two outs on Bay's 18th homer, a two-run shot that gave him an AL best 65 RBIs. Anderson drove in the last two runs with a single in the seventh and a sacrifice fly in the ninth.

NOTES

Boston SS Jed Lowrie, coming back from wrist surgery, begins a rehab stint Sunday at Triple-A Pawtucket. Two weeks there "is not out of line," Francona said. "We're not going to rush him." ... The teams have faced other in 11 of the 13 seasons since interleague play began. ... Matsuzaka didn't reach the sixth inning for the sixth time in eight starts. ... Derek Lowe, who won the deciding game of the Red Sox 2004 World Series sweep of St. Louis, pitches for Atlanta on Saturday night against Josh Beckett, the winner of the opening game of their 2007 World Series sweep of Colorado.
Tagged: Red Sox, Braves

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