SOX WIN (10:37, END 9, 6-2 SOX)
The Red Sox won their second straight behind a promising start from Daisuke Matsuzaka and two more hits from Daisuke Matsuzaka, but they have to hope injuries to Rocco Baldelli (strained left hip flexor) and Alex Gonzalez (hit by pitch in the hand) are not serious and do not complicate their postseason plans.
Takashi Saito closed it out in the ninth, ending a notable night in the bullpen. Billy Wagner got two outs in the seventh inning after pitching a full inning last night. He had pitched consecutive days since July 2008.
GONZALEZ OUT (10:23, BOT 8, 6-2 SOX)
A very scary moment for the Sox. Kerry Wood, who had previously knocked down Mike Lowell in the inning with an inside pitch, hit Gonzalez in the hand with a pitch. Gonzalez howled and dropped the bat. On his way to first, Francona and Lessard intercepted him and ushered him into the dugout.
Given the state of the Red Sox' backups -- Jed Lowrie (now in the game) and Nick Green have health issues; Chris Woodward is pretty much a minor leaguer -- the Sox will have to hope nothing is wrong with Gonzalez.
BARD COMES ON (10:11, TOP 8, 6-2 SOX)
After Ramirez got the first two outs of the inning, he gave up a triple and yielded to Bard. He threw one pitch and induced a grounder to third to end the inning.
On Wagner: The last time he pitched on consecutive days was July 23 and 24 of 2008. Sweet Caroline time.
TWO AND OUT (9:35, TOP 7, 4-2 SOX)
What have the Sox been waiting for? It's safe to say pitching Wagner consecutive days worked. He struck out two batters in seven pitches, and then exited for Ramon Ramirez. It did not seem as though Wagner left in the middle of the inning for any health reasons. Ramirez was fully warm and ready.
WAGNER BACK-TO-BACK (9:30, END 6, 4-2 SOX)
In the midst of a very, very non-noteworthy game, this is very, very interesting: Billy Wagner will pitch the seventh, the first time all season he has pitched back-to-back days. This is something Wagner has wanted to do, but the Sox vowed would not happen until the playoffs, if at all. It's happening now, perhaps to test him before the postseason comes.
MATSUZAKA SETTLES (9:15, MID 6, 4-2 SOX)
After he allowed his first two runs last inning, Matsuzaka allowed another walk and a single to Luis Valbuena, but he ended the inning with his seventh strikeout of the night.
ROCCO UPDATE (9:00, BOT 5, 4-2 SOX)
Baldelli left the game with a strained left hip flexor.
BALDELLI HURT? (8:37, END 4, 4-0 SOX)
Rocco Baldelli reached on an error to lead off the inning, sprinting to first on a ball to third base. After a couple pitches, Terry Francona and Paul Lessard, the athletic trainer, came out from the dugout and walked to first, then escorted Baldelli back to the dugout. No word on his condition yet. Josh Reddick replaced him, and was promptly doubled off on Gonzalez's line drive to third.
DICE ROLLING (8:34, MID 4, 4-0 SOX)
After another 1-2-3 inning, Matsuzaka has not allowed a hit since the leadoff double by Brantley. He has four strikeouts already and no walks, having retired 12 straight.
On Wednesday, Theo Epstein was asked about Matsuzaka's late-season revival. His reponse:
He was issued a unqiue challenge because he wasn’t where we needed him to be, and it’s not usual for a pitcher, let alone one of his caliber, to have to go down to the spring training facility, and do sprints at 6 o’clock in the morning, and recondition himself, and long toss with a bunch if 17-year-olds, and get himself back in the position where he can be back with the major league team. And I think when we sent him down to do that, we thought 'Well, there's a chance he can come back and help us in September, but there’s also significant consideration for next year and the future.' This was the right thing to do to get back on track. The fact that he worked so hard and dedicated himself so fully to the endeavor put him in a position to actually impact the club this year. And it turns out we really needed him, so he deserves a lot of credit there.
SOX TAKE COMMAND (8:24, END 3, 4-0 SOX)
The Sox are using the Indians as a nice, easy tuneup before they enter the postseason. They added three runs in the third. Jason Varitek led off with a double off the Green Monster, and the Sox loaded the bases when Alex Gonzalez was hit by a pitch and Ellsbury walked. Dustin Pedroia provided a sacrifice fly, Victor Martinez lined a single to right that Shin-Soo Choo could only trap, and Jason Bay singled home a run. Long night for Jeremy Sowers so far.
SPEED KILLS (7:29, BOT 1, 1-0 SOX)
The Sox jumped out to a lead with only one hit and the legs of Jacoby Ellsbury. He roped a doubel to right. He bolted for third and slid in ahead of throw, which zipped into leftfield. Ellsbury had his 69th steal of the season and gave the Red Sox their first run.
Daisuke Matsuzaka had an ominous start to his final outing of the regular season, but he settled down in typical fashion. Michael Brantley led off with a double to right-centerfield, but Matsuzaka struck out Jamey Carroll and retired the side in order.