Matsuzaka squelches Indians

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CLEVELAND (AP) – Rookie Daisuke Matsuzaka pitched seven shutout innings to outduel C.C. Sabathia, denying Cleveland’s ace his 14th win, as the Boston Red Sox won their fifth straight, 1-0 over the Indians on Monday night.

Matsuzaka (12-7), tagged for a season-high 12 hits in his first start against Cleveland on May 30, gave up four hits before turning it over to the majors’ best bullpen.

The Japanese right-hander allowed just one runner to reach third and improved to 5-2 in his past eight starts.

Dice-K, with his dizzying array of pitches, was only slightly better than Sabathia (13-5), who gave up five singles, struck out seven and didn’t allow a walk in seven strong innings. The left-hander was trying to become baseball’s first 14-game winner, but didn’t get any offensive support from the scuffling Indians, now 10-10 in July.

Matsuzaka was pulled after 98 pitches, giving way to Hideki Okajima, who worked a perfect eighth. Jonathan Papelbon pitched a perfect ninth for his 23rd save in 24 tries as the Red Sox reached the 100-game plateau a major league-best 61-39.

Cleveland’s Ryan Garko extended his hitting streak to 17 games.

Two soft singles and a blooper that probably should have been caught plated the game’s lone run in the fourth.

Boston’s Kevin Youkilis dropped a base hit into right, just under the glove of a sprawling Trot Nixon. Manny Ramirez, batting a jaw-dropping .571 against Sabathia, followed with a single to left.

With two outs, Sabathia got Mike Lowell to overswing and hit a routine fly toward left for an apparent easy out. However, rookie Ben Francisco misread the ball, took a step backwards and by the time he recovered, couldn’t make a diving catch near the line as Lowell’s pop fell for an RBI single.

The Indians threatened in their half of the fourth, putting two on with one out before Matsuzaka struck out Francisco and Josh Barfield, blowing fastballs past both for strike three.

Matsuzaka got some defensive help in the fifth when second baseman Dustin Pedroia, playing a short right field with pull-hitter Travis Hafner up, made a diving backhanded stop and sprung to his feet to throw out Cleveland’s DH.

Matsuzaka was in trouble in the first as the Indians loaded the bases, but the Japanese sensation struck out Jhonny Peralta to end the threat. With Grady Sizemore on second and two outs in the third, Matsuzaka stabbed a hard shot through the box by Hafner, taking away an RBI single.

Notes: Matsuzaka was assessed a ball in the fifth by plate umpire Joe West, who ruled the right-hander had touched his mouth while on the mound. … RHP Curt Schilling (shoulder tendinitis) will make his second rehab start for Triple-A Pawtucket on Thursday at Toledo. Red Sox manager Terry Francona said Schilling will throw 60-65 pitches. If all goes well, Schilling, who struck out six in three scoreless innings against Louisville on Friday, will make one more start before being brought up. … Garko’s streak is the second longest this season for the Indians behind Casey Blake’s 26-gamer, the majors’ lengthiest in ’07. Garko’s batting .456 (26-for-57) during the streak. … Boston’s Julio Lugo has hit safely in 14 consecutive games, a career-best.

AP-ES-07-24-07 2205EDT

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