Dice-K fans nine in six-plus innings as Red Sox hold off A's

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Daisuke Matsuzaka did stateside what he couldn't in front of his Japanese countrymen last week.

He thought about it, too.

Dice-K struck out nine and didn't walk a batter Tuesday night, allowing two hits and one run over 6 2/3 innings as the Boston Red Sox beat the Athletics 2-1 in Oakland's home opener.

The star right-hander (1-0) received a warm standing ovation from a crowd of 36,067 that included lots of Red Sox fans.

"It's only something I can say in hindsight, but it would have been nice to pitch like this back in Tokyo," Matsuzaka said through a translator, noting he's more comfortable starting his second season in the United States. "I guess you could say I'm getting more and more used to it, but I haven't really thought about it. A lot of it is how people perceive me, and that might be one of the results."

Kevin Youkilis exhibited the same kind of steady production he had last October to help the Red Sox win another World Series title.

Youkilis went 3-for-4 with a triple and scored twice as these two clubs resumed a season-opening series that began with a split in Tokyo last week. He also tied Steve Garvey's major league record for consecutive games without an error by a first baseman with 193.

"It's a great thing. Hopefully, I can carry it on a lot longer," he said. "It's definitely a great honor."

Youkilis hit a two-out triple off the left-field wall in the sixth, then scored on Jason Varitek's controversial double.

Varitek hit a fly ball off Joe Blanton (0-1) that landed above the yellow line on top of the out-of-town scoreboard in right before bouncing back onto the field. As Varitek slowed at second, he signaled home run, but the umpires did not make a call and manager Terry Francona rushed out to argue.

Umpires met to discuss it, and the play stood as a double.

Varitek said he couldn't see exactly what happened because it's dark in that spot of the ballpark.

"They met and were good about it," Francona said. "It was a tough one. I wanted it to be a home run because I'm with Boston."

Jack Cust hit a solo home run leading off the second for the only score against Matsuzaka. Jonathan Papelbon recorded the final four outs for his second save, striking out the side in the ninth.

Dice-K dealt with a cramp in his leg during his last start, but said dealing with that helped him make some adjustments for this outing.

"He had good command of his cutter and slider. He put himself ahead in the count and that enabled us to utilize his strengths," Varitek said. "He threw strikes with both his slider and cutter, to righties and lefties, then late he had some pretty good life to his fastball."

Francona was pleased with Matsuzaka's consistency and command.

"I thought he pitched with a lot of heart," the skipper said. "He made a lot of good pitches. I thought the pitch to Cust was a pretty good pitch. He did a great job."

Blanton had a no-decision in Oakland's Japan opener, a 6-5, 10-inning loss. He pitched well enough to win this outing, allowing two earned runs on seven hits in six innings. He struck out three and walked one.

After Kurt Suzuki singled to start the third, Dice-K struck out three of the next four batters and retired his final 12. Matsuzaka became the first Red Sox pitcher to start twice in the opening three games of a season since Luis Tiant in 1974.

The Red Sox still must wait a while before being honored for their World Series title back home. Their first game at Fenway Park isn't until next Tuesday against Detroit.

Boston tied Tuesday's game in the fifth when Youkilis scored from second on Jacoby Ellsbury's single. Youkilis slid under Suzuki's tag attempt at home. Blanton escaped with no further damage on David Ortiz's bases-loaded groundout to first.

"It's a judgment call," Suzuki said. "You see what you see, a bang-bang play. It was a good throw and Youkilis made a great slide. Bottom line, he was safe. It doesn't matter what I think."

A's rookie first baseman Daric Barton made a flop in the field in front of the home fans. On a routine short popup by Mike Lowell just into foul territory in the fourth that bounced off Barton's shoulder for an error.

A moment of silence was held before the game in memory of Joe Kennedy, the former A's left-hander who died Nov. 23 from a heart condition at age 28.

Game notes
Francona was hopeful RF J.D. Drew, out with a lower back strain, will be in the lineup Wednesday but might opt to hold him out until this weekend's series at Toronto. ... Red Sox OF Bobby Kielty has accepted a minor league assignment to Triple-A Pawtucket. ... Ex-A's manager Dick Williams, recently elected to the Hall of Fame, was honored during pregame ceremonies.