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Daisuke Matsuzaka got off to a shaky beginning and looked headed for a second rocky outing in as many starts as the Red Sox closed out their four-game series with the Cleveland Indians Thursday night. Shin-Soo Choo hit his 14th home run of the season off Matsuzaka in the first inning to set the tone. Matsuzaka would settle down, however, and behind Adrian Beltre’s fourth inning grand slam, the Sox sailed to a 6-2 win.
His first inning hiccup aside, Matsuzaka gave up only 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. Beltre’s grand slam was his 20th HR of the season and his 8th career grand slam. The Red Sox will certainly need Beltre to shoulder the burden left behind in Kevin Youkilis’ abscence after it was announced he would be shelved for the year.
The fourth inning proved to be all Red Sox, and Matsuzaka’s strikeout of Jayson Nix to end the top half was the catalyst that got the momentum swinging. Marco Scutaro set things in motion when he singled with one out, the Red Sox first hit of the game. Displaying great patience, Victor Martinez and J.D. Drew both walked to load the bases. Adrian Beltre ripped a liner that barely cleared the Green Monster for a grand slam to put the exclamation point on the inning. As Beltre crossed the plate he received some good-natured ribbing from a chuckling Martinez. Beltre had a monster series against Cleveland as he finished 6 for 15 with three homers and nine RBIs.
In the ninth, Hideki Okajima retired only Jordan Brown while the Indians scored a run before manager Terry Francona brought in Jonathan Papelbon to get the last two outs of the game. Papelbon struck out Andy Marte and Trevor Crowe for his 26th save of the season.
The Red Sox were stifled early by Cleveland righty Josh Tomlin, who retired the first 10 batters he faced.
Stud of the game, stud of the series, and he’s one of the only real threats left in the lineup. Beltre has recognized his importance to the Red Sox offensive production and seized the opportunity mightily.
He gave Sox fans a scare when he gave the Indians new life in the ninth, allowing a run and loading the bases.