Revived Sox finish Angels with 4th win
It had been a month since Victor Martinez hit a home run, which explained the fist he raised as the ball sailed into the Red Sox bullpen in the third inning.
Late to the party, Martinez arrived last night by driving in four runs to help the again-resurgent Sox beat the Los Angeles Angels, 11-6. The victory finished off a four-game sweep of the team that swept them from the playoffs last fall.
The Red Sox (15-14) are above .500 for the first time since they won the opening game of the season against the Yankees April 4. The Yankees arrive for a three-game series tonight.
The Sox have won 11 of their last 16 games, including eight of the last 10 at home.
Martinez was 2 for 4 with a walk and a double to go along with the home run. He started the night with six extra-base hits and only eight RBIs, well below what is expected. But Terry Francona has stuck with his switch-hitting catcher in the third spot in the order.
“I don’t want to start shuffling guys around,’’ the manager said. “He’s going to hit . . . You run him out there. He works too hard and is too good a hitter. You’ll look up here pretty soon and you’ll be saying he’s even hotter.’’
Martinez, who has struggled from the left side, feasted on Angels lefty Scott Kazmir, driving both extra-base hits hard to the opposite field.
“I try and sometimes I try too hard. Obviously, you need to get results,’’ Martinez said. “Now we’ll see what happens. I’m do ing the best I can.’’
The Angels have lost seven straight for the first time since 2001, Mike Scioscia’s second year as manager. The Red Sox last swept a four-game series from the Angels in 1980.
The Red Sox scored 36 runs in the four games on 53 hits, 25 of them for extra bases. The Yankees may be arriving at the right time.
“We just need to keep doing what we’ve been doing,’’ said Dustin Pedroia, who had two hits and scored three runs.
Daisuke Matsuzaka made his first start of the season last Saturday in Baltimore and pitched well until the fifth inning, when he allowed six runs on six hits.
Last night’s start was a reversal as Matsuzaka (1-1) almost failed to get out of the first inning, before going long enough to get the victory.
Matsuzaka walked the first two batters he faced, Erick Aybar and Bobby Abreu. Torii Hunter followed with an RBI single as the Fenway crowd, which has little patience for Matsuzaka, booed.
Matsuzaka walked the slumping Hideki Matsui to load the bases with one out. Juan Rivera hit a grounder to shortstop that could have been a double play, but the throw from Pedroia could not be dug out of the dirt by Kevin Youkilis.
A run scored on the play. Two more came in when Howie Kendrick tagged a fastball off the wall in center.
“He comes out and he throws the first two pitches right where he wants. About the next 30, they’re scattered,’’ Francona said.
Matsuzaka threw 39 pitches in the first inning. He needed only 49 to get through the four innings that followed. Matsuzaka allowed five runs on five hits and three walks over 5 1/3 innings.
“I’m glad that the team got the win,’’ Matsuzaka said through an interpreter. “After the first inning I thought about what had happened and I knew my pitch count was getting up there and I had no idea how long I’d be able to stay in there. I decided I would tough it out as long as I could.’’
Kazmir was not particularly efficient, either. He put four runners on base in the first two innings and escaped. That changed in the third inning when Pedroia walked and Martinez homered.
Kazmir (2-2) did not survive the fifth as the Red Sox took the lead with five runs. Marco Scutaro singled and went to second on a double by Pedroia. Martinez followed with a two-run double.
After Youkilis walked, Mike Lowell hit a soft liner to shortstop. Aybar appeared to purposely drop the ball, seeking a double play. But umpire Jim Hoye called the infield fly rule.
When Kazmir walked J.D. Drew to load the bases, reliever Brian Stokes was called in. Jeremy Hermida pinch hit for Bill Hall with two outs and delivered a two-run single. Darnell McDonald followed with an RBI double to center.
Kazmir, who bedeviled the Sox early in his career, is 3-6 with a 5.22 ERA over the last three years against them.
The Sox tacked on four more runs in the sixth inning as two singles, two walks, two errors, and a hit batter did the damage.
Now come the Yankees.
“I guess the timing is good because we’re playing well,’’ Scutaro said. “Hopefully we can keep this up.’’