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Published: Wednesday, 6/3/2009

Leyland: Tigers let Matsuzaka off hook

ASSOCIATED PRESS

DETROIT - Daisuke Matsuzaka still wasn't as good as he can be. For the first time this season, though, he was good enough.

Matsuzaka allowed one run in five innings to get his first win of the year and help manager Terry Francona earn his 500th victory as the Boston Red Sox beat the Detroit Tigers 5-1.

"I've seen Daisuke a lot better than that," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "We just let him off the hook. We had plenty of shots at him, but we didn't take them."

Francona became the third Boston manager to reach that plateau with the Red Sox, joining Joe Cronin (1,071) and Mike Higgins (560).

"That means I've been really lucky with an organization with a lot of players that have been very good," Francona said.

Matsuzaka (1-3) came into the game with an 8.82 ERA in four starts, but allowed just one run on six hits with three walks as his teammates turned three double plays behind him. He matched a season high with six strikeouts.

"For a starting pitcher, getting that first win is important - it feels like the beginning of the season," said Matsuzaka, who allowed at least one baserunner in each inning. "I was able to pitch well with runners on base."

Four Boston relievers finished. The Tigers didn't get a hit from the fourth inning until they started the ninth with three straight singles off Jonathan Papelbon.

Josh Anderson fouled off eight straight pitches before striking out, and Papelbon then struck out pinch-hitter Jeff Larish and Ramon Santiago to end the game.

Rick Porcello (6-4) lost for the first time since April, giving up three runs on seven hits and a walk in 4 1-3 innings.

"I think Porcello might have been a little too pumped up tonight," Leyland said of his 20-year-old rookie. "That's going to happen with young pitchers."

The teams each scored in the first. Dustin Pedroia led off with a double and scored on J.D. Drew's single, but Detroit tied the game in the bottom of the inning on Miguel Cabrera's RBI single.

The Red Sox left the bases loaded in the second when Pedroia grounded out, but Drew led off the third with a single and came home on Jason Bay's one-out homer.

"I got out of the first with one run, and I got out of the second, but then I just hung one for Drew," said Porcello, who went 5-0 with a 1.52 ERA in May. "That's a great hitting team, and I wasn't sharp, so I came up short for us tonight."

Porcello and fellow rookie Ryan Perry kept Boston scoreless until the sixth. With one out, Perry walked Jason Varitek, and after Jacoby Ellsbury's single, he walked Nick Green and Pedroia to drive home Boston's fourth run.

Brandon Lyon replaced Perry and got Drew to ground into a force at the plate, but then hit Kevin Youkilis to force in another run.

Notes:Tigers radio announcer Dan Dickerson returned to the booth Tuesday after missing six games with a jogging injury. ... The Red Sox activated OF Mark Kotsay from the disabled list before the game. Kotsay has missed the entire season after back surgery. ... RHP John Smoltz (shoulder) will make his fourth rehab start of the season Friday for Triple-A Pawtucket. If it goes well, manager Terry Francona said the pitcher could join the club next week. ... David Ortiz was 1-for-5, striking out three times and grounding into an inning-ending double play. ... The Red Sox played two innings with the distraction of a squirrel running back and forth across the field in the shallow outfield, and several of the players compared it to the diminutive Pedroia. "I got made fun of pretty much half the game," he said. "Our hunting guys were out there licking their chops over it."

/AP-CS-06-02-09 2324EDT



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