Garza, Rays hold off Red Sox

Posted April 10, 2009, at 1:28 a.m.

BOSTON — It’s like the offseason never happened for Matt Garza and the Tampa Bay Rays.

Garza pitched seven innings of four-hit ball, and the Rays hit three homers off Daisuke Matsuzaka to beat the Boston Red Sox 4-3 on Thursday and win their opening three-game series.

Evan Longoria had three hits, including a two-run homer, and Matt Joyce and Shawn Riggans also homered for the defending AL champions.

“We just wanted to establish ourselves early in the season, set the tone and let the people know it wasn’t a fluke,” said Garza (1-0), who allowed one run and three walks, striking out five to improve to 6-1 in his career against Boston. “We’re here to battle for a while.”

Matsuzaka (0-1) gave up four runs, nine hits and three walks in 5 1-3 innings. The Japanese star was MVP of the World Baseball Classic for the second straight time, but his season debut more closely resembled his performance in Game 5 of last year’s AL championship series, when he gave up three homers in four innings before the Red Sox rallied from a seven-run deficit to win 8-7 and force the series back to Tampa Bay.

“The mistakes really hurt him,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. “They’re a good team. We’d like to think we are. It will be a long, interesting season.”

Kevin Youkilis was 3-for-4 with a walk for Boston, singling off Brian Shouse with one out in the eighth and scoring when Joe Nelson walked Jason Bay and gave up a double to Mike Lowell. But Nelson struck out Jed Lowrie on a full count to end the threat, and Troy Percival came on to pitch the ninth.

After giving up a leadoff homer to Jason Varitek, Percival got Jacoby Ellsbury on a flyout and Dustin Pedroia on a hard drive to third that Longoria stabbed on one hop. David Ortiz walked, but Youkilis flied out and Percival earned his first save.

“It doesn’t always have to be an oil painting to be successful,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “He’s probably amped up, man, and I don’t blame him. It’s a Fenway moment.”

Boston had not lost an opening series since 1988, but the Red Sox have now lost consecutive regular-season series at Fenway Park to the Rays; Tampa Bay had not won a series in Boston in its previous 25 visits. In all, the Rays have won 13 of their last 19 games against the Red Sox, including the seven game AL championship series in which Garza beat Boston twice to earn MVP honors.

“He’s got dominant stuff when he settles in. You saw it last year,” Pedroia said. “He’s got some of the best stuff in the major leagues.”

Garza escaped a jam with two on in the first, getting J.D. Drew to line out and also put two on in the third before Drew flied out. Youkilis doubled leading off the sixth and scored on Bay’s one-out triple, but Garza retired Lowell and Lowrie.

Tampa Bay heads to Baltimore to play the Orioles, a team the Rays have beaten 12 straight times.

Notes: The Red Sox observed a moment of silence for Los Angeles Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart, who was killed in a car crash early Thursday. … It’s the third time in Matsuzaka’s career he has allowed three homers in a game. … The Rays committed their first two errors of the season. … Pedroia was presented with his 2008 Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards. Dwight Evans, who won both in 1981, took part in the ceremony. The other Red Sox players to win both awards in the same season were Ellis Burks (1990) and Jason Varitek (2005).

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