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Red Sox 6, A's 4

Sox are paced by pair

Ortiz, Matsuzaka big parts of win

By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / June 3, 2010

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David Ortiz had a double in the first inning last night and gave the Red Sox the lead with a home run in the fifth. The Oakland Athletics finally gave up in the seventh inning and decided not to pitch to him.

The intentional walk was the first of the season for Ortiz, the latest sign that the slugger is again the kind of hitter other teams dread.

Fueled by Ortiz and a dogged Daisuke Matsuzaka, the Sox rallied to beat the Athletics, 6-4, before a crowd of 37,783 at Fenway Park.

The 31-23 Red Sox have won four straight and nine of their last 11 to move back into third place in the American League East. Gaining ground on the Rays and Yankees hasn’t been easy, but the Sox continue to take steps.

“We’re playing good ball. We just need to keep going,’’ Dustin Pedroia said. “We’ve got to continue winning because it looks like no one else is losing in our division. We have to continue to play well and I bet that we will.’’

Trailing, 3-2, in the fifth, the Sox took the lead when Darnell McDonald doubled to the gap in left and Ortiz followed with a majestic shot into the seats in right field.

The Athletics had first base open with two outs but elected to pitch to Ortiz. Facing Ben Sheets, he worked the count to 3-2, fouled off a fastball, then connected on a fastball on the inner half of the plate.

“That was good. It was a very good at-bat,’’ manager Terry Francona said. “It’s been good to see.’’

It was the 12th home run of the season for Ortiz, who earlier in the day was named the American League’s Player of the Month for May.

“I was looking for my pitch. I tried not to waste it when I got it,’’ said Ortiz, who is now hitting .275 with 33 RBIs. “That’s what I’ve been doing lately, getting deep in the count.’’

Ortiz also played a big role in the first inning. After Marco Scutaro singled, Ortiz doubled off the wall in left. Kevin Youkilis drove in two runs with a single to center as Ortiz rumbled in from second well ahead of the throw.

“The way we’re going, good things are happening,’’ Ortiz said.

Matsuzaka (4-2) had walked eight in his previous start. The trick-or-treat righthander turned into a pitching machine this time, throwing 84 of 109 pitches for strikes over 6 2/3 innings.

Oakland sat on his fastball and had 10 hits. But Matsuzaka struck out seven without a walk.

“If I’m going to give up all those walks, I’m better off just trying to let them hit,’’ Matsuzaka said via interpreter Masa Hoshino. “Considering what happened in my last outing, yes, I wanted to be aggressive throwing strikes.’’

Matsuzaka’s only bad inning was the first and that was not entirely of his making.

With one out, Daric Barton hit a line drive to left that tailed away from Jeremy Hermida. He got in position to make the catch but did not get his glove on the ball.

Barton was credited with a double on the play. But it was catch that clearly should have been made by Hermida, who has misplayed several balls this season.

Ryan Sweeney followed with a legitimate double as he drove a Matsuzaka fastball off the wall in left field to drive in Barton.

Matsuzaka got ahead of Oakland’s cleanup hitter, Kurt Suzuki. But his 0-2 pitch was a hanging slider and Suzuki hammered it into the seats above the wall in left. It was his fifth home run of the season.

As Suzuki circled the bases, the crowd booed Matsuzaka.

“I hate to say this. It was almost too many strikes,’’ Francona said. “He worked ahead real well and he got hurt when he was ahead in the count.’’

Matsuzaka left runners stranded in four of the next five innings.

His work in the fourth was especially good. Gabe Gross and Adam Rosales started the inning with singles. But Matsuzaka struck out Cliff Pennington on three fastballs then got Rajai Davis to ground toward third. Adrian Beltre stepped on the bag and threw to first for the inning-ending double play.

With two on and two outs in the seventh, Daniel Bard came in and struck out Suzuki. Matsuzaka left to cheers.

Sheets (2-4) lasted six innings, allowing four runs on seven hits. The Sox tacked on another run against righthander Brad Ziegler in the seventh as Scutaro and Pedroia had back-to-back doubles with one out.

Pedroia, who has been slumping badly of late, has doubles in consecutive games and joked that he was in hot pursuit of Joe DiMaggio’s record 56-game hitting streak.

“Fifty-five more,’’ Pedroia said.

After Bard pitched a perfect eighth, Jonathan Papelbon picked up his 13th save despite allowing Kevin Kouzmanoff’s pinch-hit solo home run.

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