ANAHEIM, Calif. — Daisuke Matsuzaka pitched eight innings against the Los Angeles Angels and gave up only one hit — in self-defense.
The right-hander struck out nine in a nearly flawless performance and got home run support from Kevin Youkilis in a 5-0 victory on Saturday night, extending the Boston Red Sox’s winning streak to four games. Even Jason Varitek helped out his batterymate with an RBI double that snapped an 0 for 19 drought.
The only hit off Matsuzaka (2-2) came with one out in the second — a vicious line drive back to the box by Alberto Callaspo that deflected off Matsuzaka’s glove as he tried to protect his face and caromed off his glove to shortstop Jed Lowrie. Callaspo just beat Lowrie’s throw to first.
“He battled a little bit with his command early, but he was able to still make a completion pitch when he was battling,” Varitek said. “At other times he was executing pitches beautifully. He had a real good changeup that was able to slow down a lot of bats.”
Matsuzaka, who came within one strikeout of matching his career high, was coming off a 9-1 win last Monday at Fenway Park in which he held Toronto to one hit over seven innings. That victory ended a career-worst stretch of seven straight winless starts for the five-year veteran, who came in with a career 5.88 ERA against the Angels — including the postseason.
“He was hitting his spots, and it looked like those guys weren’t feeling comfortable at the plate,” Youkilis said. “When he goes out there and throws strikes and throws it where he wants to and get ahead, that’s what he can do.”
Los Angeles’ only other hit was an infield single to deep shortstop by Erick Aybar against Daniel Bard leading off the ninth, but the right-hander came back to strike out Bobby Abreu and Torii Hunter before retiring Vernon Wells on a grounder to second.
“We’re in a little tough streak right now,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “Those guys are pitching well, but we have to do a better job against good pitching. We haven’t been able to do it in this series. We were trying to work the counts on Matsuzaka and drew a few walks, but for the most part, he had good command and we paid a price for it.”
The Red Sox extended their streak to eight consecutive games in which their starting pitcher has gone at least five innings and allowed fewer than three runs. The rotation, which has a 1.01 during this stretch, is one game away from tying the longest such streak in franchise history, set in 1946.
“I think they’re all feeding off each other a little bit,” manager Terry Francona said. “Getting some stability and consistency in the rotation really helps.”
Ervin Santana (0-3) gave up five runs and nine hits in seven innings, raising his ERA to 5.51. It’s the first time in the right-hander’s seven-year career that he has gone winless in his first five starts. Last season he was 17-10, and in 2008 he started out 6-0 in seven starts.
With second baseman Howie Kendrick, catcher Jeff Mathis and center fielder Peter Bourjos all getting rested, Angels manager Mike Scioscia’s shuffled his lineup and had Hank Conger, Mark Trumbo and Reggie Willits filling out the bottom three spots in the batting order. The trio was a combined 0 for 8 with six strikeouts.
“We battled as much as we could, but (Matsuzaka) was just better,” Trumbo said. “He used his split-finger more to left-handed hitters, and to the right-handed hitters he threw more sliders. But it really didn’t matter. He was on. It was kind of hard to establish a trend with him.”
Boston took a 2-0 lead with Carl Crawford’s RBI single in the second inning and a run-scoring single by Adrian Gonzalez in the third. It was only the fourth RBI for Crawford in his first 75 at-bats with the Red Sox, who signed the four-time All-Star to a seven-year, $142 million free-agent contract in December after he drove in a career-high 90 runs last season for Tampa Bay.
Youkilis made it 4-0 in the fifth with a two-out opposite-field homer to right-center after a leadoff single by Jacoby Ellsbury.
Varitek, who came in 1 for 17 lifetime against Santana, got his long-awaited hit after striking out and grounding out his first two times up. The three-time All-Star started in the ninth spot in the order for the first time since April 11, 2009, at Anaheim.
NOTES: The Red Sox have seven stolen bases during the first three games of this four-game series, as many as they had during their first 17 games. … Matsuzaka made his fourth career regular-season start against the Angels and first in Anaheim. He also faced the Halos twice in the postseason, getting no-decisions in 2008 at the Big A and 2007 at Fenway Park. … Matsuzaka also pitched at Angel Stadium in the 2006 World Baseball Classic for Japan, beating Mexico in the semifinals with five scoreless innings for one of his three victories — and winning MVP honors for the tournament.