Red Sox 6, Indians 2

Daisuke Matsuzaka and Adrian Beltre are doing their best to keep

the Boston Red Sox in playoff contention.

Matsuzaka pitched eight solid innings and Beltre hit a grand

slam to lead Boston to a 6-2 victory over the Cleveland Indians on

Thursday night, earning a split of the four-game series.

”Every game from here on is a must win,” Matsuzaka said, ”so

I think the most important things about today is we got a

`W.”’

Going into their game on July 4, the Red Sox were a half-game

out of first place in the AL East. Now, after a rash of injuries,

they trail the first-place New York Yankees by six games for the

division lead and Tampa Bay by 5 1/2 in the wild-card race.

Matsuzaka (8-3) allowed Shin-Soo Choo’s 14th homer of the season

in the first but gave up just four more hits and never faced more

than four batters in any inning. He is 5-1 in his last 10 starts

and has allowed three earned runs or less in 10 of his last 12

outings.

”Matsuzaka had tremendous control and he was tough,” Indians

manager Manny Acta said. ”We aren’t claiming to be a hitting

machine type of club, but he had a good arsenal.”

He struck out six, walked two and allowed five hits. After

Jayson Nix led off the seventh with a single, Matsuzaka retired the

last six batters he faced, finishing by getting Choo on a

groundout.

”I knew that if I let anybody on base that would be the night

for me, so I needed to get those (last) three outs,” Matsuzaka

said.

Beltre is batting a team-high .336 with 20 homers and a

club-leading 75 RBIs. He connected for his grand slam in the fourth

off Josh Tomlin (1-1), who retired Boston’s first 10 batters.

”It was a fastball right in the middle,” Tomlin said. ”I lost

the first few hitters and got out of rhythm. The fourth inning

killed me and I paid when I made a mistake.”

Jonathan Papelbon got his 26th save in 31 opportunities when he

struck out Trevor Crowe with the bases loaded for the final

out.

Matsuzaka ”gave us a lot of pitches to hit and we just

didn’t,” Crowe said. ”He challenged us, but we just didn’t take

advantage.”

Marco Scutaro singled with one out in the fourth for Boston.

After David Ortiz flied out, Victor Martinez and J.D. Drew walked

before Beltre hit a 1-0 pitch for his eighth grand slam and first

since Sept. 21, 2006. It extended his hitting streak to 11 games

during which he’s batting .356.

”He continues to just take ferocious swings without losing

sight of what he’s doing,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona

said.

The homer capped Beltre’s big series against Cleveland. He

started it by driving in all of Boston’s runs in a 6-5 loss Monday

night and finished 6 for 15 with four runs scored, three homers and

nine RBIs.

Drew drove in Boston’s last two runs in the eighth with a

single.

Cleveland scored on Luis Valbuena’s ninth-inning single off

Hideki Okajima before Papelbon took over.

The Indians lost a chance for their first series win at Fenway

Park since 2005, while the victory sent the Red Sox off a tough

10-game road trip on a high note. They open a four-game series

against the Yankees on Friday night, then play three games each at

Toronto and Texas.

Boston is trying to stay in contention without some of its best

hitters. The latest to be sidelined is first baseman Kevin

Youkilis, who is scheduled to undergo season-ending surgery on his

right thumb on Friday in Cleveland. Second baseman Dustin Pedroia

missed his 34th game Thursday with a fractured left foot and still

can’t run without pain.

Matsuzaka was coming off one of his poorer outings of his strong

season when he left last Saturday’s game in the seventh with

Detroit leading 4-0. But Boston rallied for a 5-4 win.

Tomlin started the game the way he pitched in his first two

major league starts. He allowed one earned run in seven-plus

innings and got the win in his debut, a 3-1 win over the Yankees,

then got a no-decision in a 2-1 win at Toronto in which he gave up

one earned run in 5 1-3 innings.

Tomlin settled down after Beltre’s homer, giving up two more

hits before leaving after the seventh.

”He’s human,” Acta said. ”Here and there he will lose his

command, but after the grand slam he still went about his business

and kept his composure.”

Notes: Ortiz’s 13-game hitting streak ended when he went 0 for

3. … Choo’s homer extended Cleveland’s streak to 58 games with an

extra-base hit, the longest current stretch in the majors. …

Before the game, the Indians acquired C Juan Apodaca and IF Argenis

Reyes, who have been at Boston’s Triple-A team in Pawtucket, for

cash. … Matsuzaka is 4-0 with a 0.93 ERA in his last four starts

against Cleveland.