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Red Sox 6, Nationals 1

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WASHINGTON (AP)

Stay in the majors long enough, and you'll see everything. There he was, 43-year-old Tim Wakefield, giving a self-assessment of spring training to the sounds of a teammate's accordion.

While Wakefield talked about his strong outing in Boston's 6-1 win over the Washington Nationals on Saturday, Victor Martinez proficiently worked his fingers over the keyboard and buttons, playing a Latin melody on an instrument he took up about a month ago.

``I like him better as a catcher,'' quipped Red Sox manager Terry Francona, who heard part of Martinez's mini-concert when he stepped inside the clubhouse to grab an in-game taco.

Francona also likes what he sees in Wakefield as a pitcher, especially after four scoreless innings during which the knuckleballer allowed three hits - all singles - with no walks and two strikeouts. He threw 35 of 45 pitches for strikes.

``Wake was pretty good,'' Francona said. ``He looked at me when I said 'That's enough' like 'What, are you crazy?' He was good, though. He was in the zone.''

Wakefield's spot in the starting rotation was far from a sure thing when spring training began, but he didn't allow a run in four of his six outings and finished with a 3.04 ERA. He'll make his season debut April 9 in Kansas City.

``I'm ready to go. Very confident. My job here is to give the club innings, and make every one of my starts,'' said Wakefield, before chuckling at the accordion music that accompanied his remarks.

The other odd sight from Saturday's game was Daisuke Matsuzaka stopping the game momentarily to adjust his jersey, belt and trousers during his four-inning stint in relief of Wakefield. Some of the pro-Boston crowd at Nationals Park made known their approval.

``I thought maybe there was some whistles, and I thought maybe for a second about dropping my pants a little lower,'' Matsuzaka joked through an interpreter, ``but I stopped myself.''

Uniform adjustments aside, Dice-K didn't look too bad on the mound. In his second appearance of the spring as he deals with back and neck trouble, he allowed one run and two hits, walked three and hit a batter.

Matsuzaka will start the season on the disabled list and make an appearance in the minors in about a week.

``Today I felt, even though I wasn't necessarily pitching at my best, I was still able to get outs and figure my way around hitters,'' Matsuzaka said.

As for the Nationals, well, they looked like the same old Nationals that lost 100-plus games each of the last two seasons. Starting pitcher Craig Stammen gave up a pair of homers early, and the bullpen surrendered a big inning that put the game out of reach.

Even the crowd of 37,312 was skewed in favor of the opposition. The Nationals drew a bigger crowd only four times in the regular season last year: on opening day, and in all three games of their only home series against the Red Sox.

Still, Washington did finish the spring better than it started. After losing its first 11, it played roughly .500 ball.

``I'm very happy with the spring in terms of what we got accomplished,'' manager Jim Riggleman said. ``We got a lot accomplished. We didn't get a lot accomplished in the win column, but as the spring progressed, we picked it up a bit there.''

NOTES: Kevin Youkilis hit a two-run homer in the first, and J.D. Drew had a solo shot in the second off Stammen, the Nationals' No. 3 pitcher. Stammen allowed three runs and three hits over five innings. ... Boston RHP Boof Bonser, on the 15-day DL with a strained right groin, pitched five innings in a minor league game in Florida. ... The Nationals are keeping eight relievers to start the season, leaving room for both LHP Jesse English and RHP Tyler Walker to make the team. English has never pitched in the big leagues. ``There are a couple of spots that are going to be vulnerable when we add the fifth starter,'' Riggleman said. ``That will be another tough call.'' ... Boston opens the season at home Sunday night against the New York Yankees. Washington opens Monday at home against the Philadelphia Phillies.

Tagged: Red Sox, Nationals

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