Brewers Battle Dice-K

The Boston Red Sox haven't lost a game started by Daisuke Matsuzaka since last season. They badly need that trend to continue Friday night.

With Matsuzaka on the mound and manager Terry Francona expected to return, the Red Sox look to avoid losing a fifth consecutive game when they host the Milwaukee Brewers for the first time in almost 11 years.

Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made Boston -201 money line favorites (MLB Odds) for tonight's game, the over/under has been set at 9.5 total runs (Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 75% of bets for this game have been placed on Boston -201 (View MLB Bet Percentages). Bet this game.

The Red Sox (24-19) went 4-6 during a 10-game road trip, dropping the final four contests. They suffered a two-game sweep by Baltimore in their last series as Brad Mills filled in for Francona, who attended the funeral of his mother-in-law.

Francona is expected to be back in the dugout Friday after Boston's slide continued with Thursday's 6-3 defeat to the Orioles. The Red Sox have given up 47 runs in their last eight games.

"I'm not really concerned," catcher Jason Varitek said. "We need to find a way to grind out a win."

The Red Sox hope having Matsuzaka (6-0, 2.45 ERA) on the mound Friday will help them do that, as the right-hander's last 10 starts, including postseason, have produced victories. Boston has won his eight starts this season.

On Saturday, Matsuzaka allowed two runs, struck out seven and walked three in seven innings of a 5-2 victory at Minnesota. That came after he walked 18 in 22 1-3 innings over his previous four starts. Matsuzaka, though, still managed to go 3-0 with a 3.22 ERA in those games.

"The obvious difference from my previous few starts was really my feel for the ball," Matsuzaka told the team's official Web site about Saturday's effort.

Matsuzaka will make his first start against Milwaukee (20-21) in the opener of this three-game set. He went 3-1 with a 2.00 ERA and 32 strikeouts in 27 innings in four interleague starts last year.

Boston was 12-6 in interleague play last season and is 16-3 in its last 19 interleague games at Fenway Park, hitting .312 with 23 homers.

Boston hasn't hosted the Brewers since taking two of three from Sept. 5-7, 1997 - Milwaukee's last season in the AL. The Red Sox also won two of three on the road in their only interleague series against Milwaukee from June 6-8, 2003.

The Brewers, 8-7 in interleague games last year, are looking to rebound from Thursday's 7-2 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers as they dropped the last two games of the three-game series.

Ryan Braun went 1-for-8 in the two losses, but hit his 10th homer of the season Thursday, hours after signing an eight-year, $45 million contract. The left fielder is batting .286 with 30 RBIs this season after hitting .324 with 34 homers and 97 RBIs in 2007, when he won the NL Rookie of the Year award.

"I really believe in the direction this franchise is headed," Braun said. "I'm extremely excited in our future."

The deal surpasses the $42 million, four-year contract the Brewers gave free-agent right-hander Jeff Suppan got before the 2007 season and is the longest contract in Brewers' history.

Suppan (2-2, 4.63) is coming off one of his best outings of the season, allowing one run and six hits in seven innings of a 5-3 victory over St. Louis on Sunday. The right-hander had failed to win in his previous six starts and showed vast improvement from his last two outings, in which he went 0-2 with an 11.42 ERA.

"I think when you win, that's the important thing," Suppan told the Brewers' official Web site. "I didn't even really notice (the winless streak) until I started hearing it more. You go through the ups and downs of the season. When you get the wins, it doesn't matter who gets them."

Suppan, though, was 1-1 with a 10.13 ERA in three interleague starts last season. He hasn't started a game at Boston since Sept. 22, 2003, when he was with the Red Sox. Bet this game.

Here are some top trends for today's game:

- SUPPAN is 3-4 when starting against BOSTON with an ERA of 5.03 and a WHIP of 1.397.

- BOSTON is 23-10 (+12.5 Units) against the money line in games played on a grass field this season.

Get real live customizable updates, public betting info from 6 online sports books, archived public betting info and much more by clicking here.

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