Matsuzaka gets help from Lugo


BOSTON (AP) – Daisuke Matsuzaka got as much support from slumping Julio Lugo on Tuesday night as he had gotten from the Red Sox in any of his six previous starts, pitching eight shutout innings to lead Boston to a 4-1 win over Tampa Bay, the Devil Rays’ ninth straight loss.

Matsuzaka (10-5) struck out nine while allowing four hits and one walk, preserving the shutout by fanning countryman Akinori Iwamura for the third time with a runner on third in the eighth. Lugo went 2-for-3, his first hits since June 14, and drove in two runs.

Matsuzaka, who cost the Red Sox $103 million over the winter, has allowed two runs or fewer in six consecutive starts. But even while lowering his ERA from 4.83 to 3.53, the Japanese right-hander has won just three times since May 25, getting a total of seven runs of support in his six previous starts.

Carlos Pena of the Devil Rays hit his 19th homer in the ninth off Jonathan Papelbon.

Scott Kazmir (5-5) allowed four runs, three earned, and six hits while striking out six in six innings. He walked three – all in a row, throwing 10 consecutive balls – to load the bases and help Boston to a three-run second inning.

Jason Varitek made it 1-0 with an RBI groundout, and one out later Lugo singled to center to give Boston a 3-0 lead. The sold-out Fenway Park crowd, which had taken to booing the shortstop lately, rose to its feet to applaud the end of his 0-for-33 slump – the longest for a Red Sox player since 1991.

Lugo, who hadn’t driven in a run since June 8, showed no reaction, but outfielder Manny Ramirez gave him a lengthy hug in the infield on their way out to their positions after the inning was over.

Lugo, who signed a four-year, $36-million contract on the same day as Matsuzaka’s much-heralded flight to Boston, also singled in the seventh and got picked off first base. He was the only batter on either team with more than one hit, raising his average to .194; it had been .265 on May 14.

Notes: CF Coco Crisp returned from a four-game absence with a sprained left thumb. He made a nice play on Iwamura’s sixth-inning shot off the Green Monster. But the throw to second was dropped after the tag by second baseman Dustin Pedroia. Umpire Gerry Davis was about to call Iwamura out, but signaled safe when the ball rolled away. … The Devil Rays and Red Sox play 18 of their final 81 games against each other. … Tampa Bay reinstated RHP Juan Salas from the restricted list after he served a 50-game suspension for violating baseball’s drug testing program. RHP Tim Corcoran (right elbow strain) was transferred to the 60-day DL. … Iwamura, who was 2-for-8 against Matsuzaka in Japan, went 1-for-4 with two strikeouts against him. … Ramirez went 0-for-2 against Kazmir, making him 4-for-31 against the Devil Rays lefty in his career. That’s Ramirez’s lowest average against any pitcher whom he’s faced at least 30 times.