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Devil Rays 2, Red Sox 1

Support lacking by Sox

Matsuzaka takes loss despite pitching well

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- If, in an idle moment, Daisuke Matsuzaka happened to glance at the Tropicana Field scoreboard last night and noticed that the Texas Rangers had scored a record-setting 30 runs in Baltimore, he might have had cause to wonder whether he'd gotten the wrong directions to the American League when he left Japan.

Matsuzaka could pitch a month of Sundays -- or, to be more accurate, nearly two months of Red Sox starts -- before he'd see his team total that many runs on his behalf.

Matsuzaka gave up just two hits in six innings, but one was a two-run home run to B.J. Upton in the sixth inning, the difference in a 2-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, who vanquish the Red Sox only when Matsuzaka is pitching. The D-Rays have beaten the Sox just three times in a dozen meetings, this season and all of their wins have come against Matsuzaka. He's the only pitcher in the bigs to have lost three times to the Devil Rays this season.

The Sox, who had gained two games in two nights on the Yankees in the AL East and had climbed 26 games over .500 for the first time this season, lost ground again to New York, which beat the Angels in Anaheim to cut the deficit to five games.

The Sox had the potential tying run on base in each of the last three innings and the potential winning run on base in the ninth, when David Ortiz walked with one out and J.D. Drew singled with two outs off Devil Rays closer Al Reyes. But Reyes, who in three previous outings against the Sox had a save, a loss, a blown save, and a 7.36 ERA, retired Jason Varitek on a fly ball to left to end the game.

"It starts with me tonight," said Varitek, who made the last out in four innings, each time with two runners on base. "I left a lot of guys on base tonight. I personally had a lot of opportunities and I didn't get it done."

The Sox, who loaded the bases in the third with no outs but scored just once, and had Ortiz thrown out at the plate in the fifth, were 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position and left 14 runners on base.

There's been a tendency for that to happen when Matsuzaka is pitching. In his last 11 starts dating to June 27, the Sox have scored 29 runs while Matsuzaka has been in the game.

That includes last night, when Matsuzaka clung to a 1-0 lead until the sixth, when he walked Carlos Peña with one out and was taken deep by Upton, who hit his 18th home run of the season one day after turning 23. Upton was batting cleanup for the first time this season, Devil Rays manager Joe Maddon having flip-flopped him with Peña.

"I think I wasted a lot of pitches, and got myself in trouble," said Matsuzaka, who struck out eight, walked four, and was dismissed after throwing 111 pitches in six innings.

Upton was hitless in seven at-bats against Matsuzaka, with four whiffs and a walk, before he drove a fastball into the right-field seats for an opposite-field home run.

In 12 of his last 16 starts, the Sox have scored two runs or fewer while Matsuzaka is in the game. "I don't think I feel stressed out by the way the games turned out," he said. "The only thing I feel frustrated about is my own pitching."

Twice in four days, a Sox starter has lost after giving up just two hits. Sunday, it was Julian Tavarez, a 3-1 loser to the Angels. Last night, it was Matsuzaka, who gave up a bloop single to Josh Wilson in the third and did not allow a runner to reach third until the home run.

Playing without Manny Ramírez, who was given the night off, the Sox scored fewer runs for Matsuzaka than they lost bodies, with Dustin Pedroia and Eric Hinske departing with injuries.

Pedroia was hit in the left elbow by a pitch in the third inning. He stuck around to score the team's only run off Tampa Bay starter Edwin Jackson on a double by Kevin Youkilis, a walk to Ortiz, and a sacrifice fly by Mike Lowell. That rally expired when Drew popped out on the first pitch and Varitek rolled out to third.

But by the bottom of the inning, Alex Cora was at second base and Pedroia was getting precautionary X-rays. Cora came to the plate with a chance to tie the game in the eighth, after a two-out, ground-rule double by Julio Lugo. He hit a foul ball with home run distance, then struck out.

Pedroia's X-rays were negative, left with only a nasty bruise. For a short time, he had no feeling in his hand.

"I've got to get it as well as I can and get back in tomorrow," said Pedroia, pointing to the spot on his elbow where ball had struck bone. "I guess it happens. No biggie."

In the fourth, Hinske, who was playing left field in place of Ramírez, drew a walk, stole second, and continued to third when the throw from surprised catcher Josh Paul went into the outfield. Hinske was stranded when Lugo rolled to shortstop and Cora lined to the track in left. And when play resumed in the bottom of the inning, he, too, was gone, replaced by Bobby Kielty.

Hinske had a cramp in his right calf.

"I didn't think much of it," said Hinske, who felt it as he was running to third. "But it got tighter and tighter and locked up on me. It's either a bad cramp or a mild strain. It hurts, it's pretty sore, but it should be fine. It scares you when something like that happens. I've never pulled a muscle. It kind of felt like somebody kicked me."

Which is probably how Matsuzaka felt.