Indians 8, Red Sox 4

Low five

Sox again can’t get their hands on first victory

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By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / April 7, 2011

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CLEVELAND — The Red Sox haven’t had a team start the season with six straight losses since 1945. But that group had a valid excuse. World War II was raging and Ted Williams, Bobby Doerr, Dom DiMaggio, and Johnny Pesky were among the players called into military service.

Now, a lifetime later, the Sox must find a way to beat the Cleveland Indians this afternoon to avoid that ignominy. The $161 million Sox were beaten again last night, 8-4, by the Indians.

Perhaps the best thing for the woeful Sox is that they left Progressive Field last night having to return quickly for the final game of the series at 12:05 p.m.

“I don’t think many of us are going to sleep,’’ manager Terry Francona said. “We might as well go ahead and play pretty soon.’’

The 0-5 Sox have been outscored by 21 runs and have a staff earned run average of 8.32. They are hitting 7 of 40 (.175) with runners in scoring position.

“You know what? This game will humble you in a hurry and it’s doing that to us right now,’’ Francona said. “We’ve got to start acting like we’re a good team. We’ve got to find a way to win.’’

The two newest Red Sox, Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez, did their part last night. Crawford was 2 for 4 with a walk, stole his first two bases of the season, and scored a run. Gonzalez was 2 for 3 with a walk, a double, and a two-run home run, his first.

But the Sox had only three other hits and struck out 11 times.

Kevin Youkilis was 0 for 4 and left four men on base. He is 2 for 15 on the season. Jacoby Ellsbury was 0 for 5 and is hitless in his last 14 at-bats. Dustin Pedroia has scored one run but has yet to drive one in.

“I speak for myself. I’m probably one of the biggest problems around right now. I’ve got to play a lot better baseball,’’ Youkilis said.

Sox starter Daisuke Matsuzaka, who had a strong spring training, had been 4-1 with a 2.34 earned run average in five starts against Cleveland. That included 15 scoreless innings in two starts at Progressive Field.

But as is so often the case with Matsuzaka, expectations did not match reality as he allowed three runs in only five innings.

Michael Brantley lined the second pitch of the game into right field for a single. With one out, Matsuzaka let a cutter drift over the plate and Shin-Soo Choo hammered it into the seats in right-center.

Asdrubal Cabrera had an RBI single in the second inning. Matsuzaka then held the Indians down for three straight innings. But he was done after five innings and 96 pitches.

“It took him until about the fourth inning to get the strike/ball ratio where he’s actually throwing more strikes than balls. It’s just a hard way to pitch successfully,’’ Francona said. “He didn’t give up a ton of runs, but at the end he’s almost at 100 pitches after five [innings].’’

Said Matsuzaka via an interpreter: “I didn’t feel tired after 96 pitches. I wanted to throw another one or two innings if possible and help the team win.’’

Lefthander Dennys Reyes, who may not be around for long, started the sixth and hit Travis Buck and Matt LaPorta with pitches before walking Jack Hannahan, who was trying to bunt, on four pitches.

“It got away from us,’’ said Francona, who had to bring in Dan Wheeler.

Brantley hit a line drive to third. Youkilis thought at first to let the ball drop on purpose and turn a double play. But when the ball curled away from him, he tried to make the catch and then dropped the ball anyway.

“You see lot of guys try and drop the ball on purpose. Sometimes it works,’’ Youkilis said. “Usually [the umpires] call it a dead ball, but right there we almost had it.’’

Youkilis recovered in time to step on the bag and throw to the plate. But Varitek did not see Youkilis step on the base and Buck crossed the plate without being tagged.

“I should have gone ahead and tagged him,’’ said Varitek, who called the play “the weirdest’’ of his long career. “It’s totally my fault.’’

The next hitter, Asdrubal Cabrera, lined a fastball into the stands in right and the Indians had a 7-2 lead.

“We had a chance to get out of that inning,’’ Wheeler said. “I need to do a better job.’’

The Sox scored twice off Mitch Talbot in the second but left two runners on in the third and two more in the fifth. Youkilis struck out with men in scoring position each time.

Crawford singled and scored on a home run by Gonzalez in the seventh. But it only dented the Cleveland lead.

Now Jon Lester faces the Indians today in a game that seems huge.

“I can see it starting with Lester. Let the big boy just get on a roll and put us on his shoulders,’’ said Francona in what sounded like more of a prayer.

Peter Abraham can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @peteabe.

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