Dice K Takes Hill

The Boston Red Sox and Oakland Athletics started their seasons in a far different place than the rest of the major leagues - Japan.

Six days and more than 5,000 miles removed from their last meeting, the Red Sox and A's will resume their series on Tuesday in Oakland, with Boston's Daisuke Matsuzaka and Oakland's Joe Blanton matching up for the second time.

Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made Boston -134 money line favorites (MLB Odds) for tonight's game, the over/under has been set at 8.5 total runs (Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 78% of bets for this game have been placed on Boston –134(View MLB Bet Percentages).

Neither pitcher factored in the decision when they faced off last Tuesday at the Tokyo Dome, as neither completed six innings in a game the Red Sox (1-1) eventually won 6-5 in 10 innings.

Matsuzaka (0-0, 3.60 ERA) only allowed two hits in five innings, but walked five and allowed two runs while struggling with a high pitch count that plagued him for much of last season.

"I'm glad that things ended well for the team, but, of course, I'm not happy with my own results," Matsuzaka told his team's official Web site. "But I hope I can take some of the things I learned and use them as a positive direction for my next start."

Blanton (0-0, 4.76) threw five shutout innings for Oakland (1-1) before allowing three runs and retiring just two batters in the sixth. Boston tied the game at 4 in the ninth on a home run by outfielder Brandon Moss - who's now in the minor leagues - and went ahead on a two-run double by Manny Ramirez in the 10th.

Oakland earned a split of the two games played in Japan with a 5-1 win the next night.

"I thought we played two real good games over there against the defending champions," Oakland manager Bob Geren told the A's official Web site. "We had a chance to take both of those games, and now we have a chance to take two more. It feels like we're starting over, but we're just hoping to do what we've done since we started spring training, and that's play good baseball."

Matsuzaka and Blanton will be the first two pitchers to start two of their teams' first three games since 2004, when Victor Zambrano and Mike Mussina did it for Tampa Bay and the New York Yankees, who also started the season in Japan.

Those two games had similar results - both lopsided Rays victories - but Geren said the familiarity won't necessarily help either team.

"Both teams have the same advantages and disadvantages," Geren said. "It happens every once in a while, where a pitcher sees a team two starts in a row, and you never know, really, if it's going to help you or hurt you."

Matsuzaka pitched well last June 5 in his only appearance at McAfee Coliseum, allowing just two runs in seven innings and striking out eight, but took the loss as Oakland won 2-0.

The Red Sox dropped three of four in Oakland in 2007, with Blanton taking a tough loss in Boston's lone win - a 1-0 game in which Curt Schilling came within one out of a no-hitter.

Both teams played exhibition series in California this week, hoping to shake off jet lag. Next up will be the challenge of staying sharp despite all the travel, something the Yankees had trouble with four years ago, when they started 8-11.

The Red Sox are in the midst of a three-country, two-and-a-half-week road trip that will take them to Toronto before their home opener next Tuesday.

"You hear all the war stories, but I don't want us to talk ourselves into being tired," Boston manager Terry Francona said.

The Red Sox will hope Ramirez stays hot after going 3-for-9 with a home run and five of Boston's seven RBIs in Tokyo. Ramirez struggled in April last season, hitting just .202 with 13 RBIs.

Boston may again be without right fielder J.D. Drew, who missed the games in Japan with a back problem. Oakland continues to play without third baseman Eric Chavez, who also has a back injury.

by: Dave Michaels - thespread.com – Email Us

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