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10/11/08 1:05 AM ET

Red Sox Short Hops: Game 1

Matsuzaka excels, giving Red Sox home-field advantage

Fielding the Red Sox's 2-0 win over the Rays in Game 1 on a short hop ...

In < 25 words ...
Daisuke Matsuzaka baffled the Rays' lineup for seven-plus innings, allowing just four hits and snaring an impressive Game 1 victory.

Frozen moment
With runners on second and third with no outs in the top of the fifth inning, Jed Lowrie again came through with a crucial RBI. As Rays starter James Shields appeared to be cruising through the Red Sox's order, Lowrie tagged a sacrifice fly to right field, giving Boston a 1-0 lead.

Big number
9 -- Number of strikeouts Matsuzaka compiled against the Rays, tying his 2008 season high. He fanned nine on April 1 against the A's and struck out eight on two other occasions -- the most recent coming against the Blue Jays on Aug. 24.

Game balls

Daisuke Matsuzaka

He might be the most unpredictable 18-game winner in Major League history. Matsuzaka is prone to short outings with high pitch counts, but he pitched seven-plus strong innings against the Rays in Game 1. Despite walking four, Dice-K allowed just four hits and made the Rays guess constantly.

Mark Kotsay

His checked swing with a runner on first in the fifth inning turned into a double down the left-field line. It put two runners in scoring position and set up Lowrie's sac fly.

Kevin Youkilis

His 3-for-4 night, which included an RBI, might be overshadowed only by his keen ability to move from first base to third in the absence of Mike Lowell.

Sense of October
After walking the bases loaded in the first inning, Matsuzaka reached deep and found a poise that makes pitchers great in the postseason. Not only did he get out of that inning without allowing a run, but he no-hit the Rays through the first six innings of the contest.

Lines of the Game
Kevin Youkilis
4 AB, 3 H, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 0 R, 0 SB
Comment: Youkilis produced two doubles and again played excellent defense at third base.

Daisuke Matsuzaka
7 IP, 0 R, 4 H, 4 BB, 9 Ks
Comment: The 18-game winner pitched a gem. Despite facing a dangerous Rays lineup in a ballpark where the visitor rarely wins, Dice-K dominated.

"Well, I don't think about that stuff when I play. That's more of a flash on the headlines or putting on the ticker when you're 0-for somebody." -- Youkilis, who entered the game 0-for-17 lifetime vs. Rays pitcher James Shields but went 2-for-3 against him in Game 1

Next step
With Matsuzaka taking home-field advantage away from the Rays with a Game 1 win at the Trop, Josh Beckett looks to tap into his regular October brilliance when he takes the ball on Saturday.

Mark Remme is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.