Red Sox 2, Athletics 1
After watching Daisuke Matsuzaka struggle so much in the first inning this season, Boston manager Terry Francona was quite pleased with how his starter looked right from the start against Oakland.
Matsuzaka pitched two-hit ball into the seventh inning and Adrian Beltre homered to help the Red Sox snap the Athletics five-game winning streak with a 2-1 victory Monday night.
Matsuzaka (7-3) had allowed 16 first-inning runs in 15 starts this season, but found his groove right away against the A's.
''He looked to me real sharp right from the beginning, I think that was real obvious,'' Francona said. ''That was real crisp. There was a lot of power to his pitches and he was down when he wanted to be. He misfired a couple of times but that was pretty good stuff.''
Eric Patterson tripled and scored against his former team as the Red Sox got off to a strong start on their 10-game West Coast road trip. Boston had lost eight of 11 heading into this crucial trip that continues in Seattle and Anaheim.
Ben Sheets (4-9) put together another solid outing for the A's, allowing just two runs and seven hits in 6 2-3 innings. But he was once again done in by a lack of offensive support.
Sheets was the beneficiary of a big night from the bats in his last start before the All-Star break as Oakland beat the Los Angeles Angels 15-1, but has gotten only one run of support in nine of his 20 starts this season.
That was the case once again against Matsuzaka, who has won back-to-back starts after going more than a month without a win. Matsuzaka threw first pitch strikes to 19 of 24 batters he faced.
''That's Dice's whole M.O. Getting ahead and throwing strikes,'' catcher Kevin Cash said.
Matsuzaka, who lasted only one inning in his last start in Oakland a year ago, was much sharper this time around. He retired the first seven batters of the game before Rajai Davis drove the ball into the left-field seats to give the A's a 1-0 lead.
Matsuzaka struck out the next two batters and didn't allow another hit until Mark Ellis hit a two-out double in the seventh inning. That put runners on second and third and ended the night for Matsuzaka, who struck out six and walked two in 6 2-3 innings.
''There are countless small improvements that I would want to make throughout my outing,'' Matsuzaka said. ''But this is the type of pitching I really want to continue to do as the season goes on.''
Daniel Bard relieved and got Gabe Gross to pop out to third base to end the threat. The A's put two runners on in the eighth against Bard, but Kurt Suzuki grounded out to end that inning. Jonathan Papelbon pitched a perfect ninth for his 21st save in 24 opportunities.
The A's, coming off a three-game sweep in Kansas City, were looking to move above .500 for the first time since June 11 but were unable to generate nearly enough offense.
The Red Sox took the lead in the fourth when Patterson legged out a leadoff triple to snap an 0-for-11 string. Patterson was traded from Oakland to Boston on June 26 and five of his first eight hits for the Red Sox have gone for extra bases.
Patterson scored on David Ortiz's sacrifice fly. Then with two outs, Beltre hit a drive to left-center for his 15th home run to give Boston a 2-1 lead.
''I thought I was below average tonight,'' Sheets said. ''We mixed our pitches well and threw some different things in there, made up two or three new pitches, four or five different arm angles.''
Sheets left the game after walking Marco Scutaro to load the bases with two outs in the seventh inning, kicking the ground in apparent disgust as he walked back to the dugout. Jerry Blevins helped him escape the jam by getting pinch-hitter Bill Hall to ground out.
But the A's were unable to generate enough offense against Matsuzaka.
''He had a couple different variations on his fastball,'' Oakland manager Bob Geren said. ''He had some cutters, he had a slow big breaking ball, a slider. He just didn't leave a lot of balls in the middle of the plate to hit.''
NOTES: The last 10 games between the teams had been played in Boston, the longest such streak between the teams since 1919. ... A's 3B Kevin Kouzmanoff was scratched with a stiff back. ... Oakland placed OF Ryan Sweeney on the DL with a right knee injury that will require season-ending surgery. ... Boston 3B Mike Lowell had a cortisone injection in his injured right hip Monday and will begin a rehab assignment at Triple-A Pawtucket on Thursday. ... OF Jeremy Hermida (ribs) is expected to join the Red Sox in Seattle later this week after playing two rehab games at Pawtucket.