Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 6/9/12

BOSTON -- Making his first major league start one day shy of a year since he had Tommy John surgery, Red Sox right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka pitched five strong innings but was outdueled by Nationals left-hander Gio Gonzalez, as Washington won its second consecutive game, 4-2,in Boston.

Matsuzaka gave up up four runs on five hits and a walk with eight strikeouts and a home run.

Gonzalez, who went 6 1/3 innings, gave up two runs on three hits and two walks with five strikeouts. He earned the win, improving to 8-2 with a 2.35 ERA.

In six career starts against the Red Sox, this was Gonzalez's strongest performance. He had never gone longer than six innings previously and never allowed fewer than three runs. He improved his overall record against Boston to 3-1.

The Sox had one base runner against Gonzalez during the first four innings when David Ortiz doubled to lead off the second inning and went to third on a wild pitch.

Gonzalez kept the Sox off the scoreboard through the first six innings but was done after a one-out walk to Will Middlebrooks and a Mike Aviles single in the seventh. Craig Stammen relieved Gonzalez and walked pinch-hitter Ryan Sweeney. Lefty Michael Gonzalez entered to face pinch-hitter Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who hit a first-pitch two-run single off the wall in left field. But Michael Gonzalez struck out Daniel Nava looking at a 92-mph fastball, and got Dustin Pedroia to pop out in foul ground to first baseman Adam LaRoche to end the Boston rally.

Despite a second-inning, lead-off, first-pitch home run into the Red Sox bullpen in center field by LaRoche, his 10th of the season, Matsuzaka looked solid over the first three innings, facing one batter over the minimum. But he struggled in his final two frames when he faced 10 batters, giving up three runs -- all in the fourth -- on four hits and a walk.

Matsuzaka, who had not appeared on a big league mound since May 16, 2011, had Tommy John surgery on June 10, 2011.

In the fourth inning, Bryce Harper led off with a four-pitch walk, taking third on Ryan Zimmerman's single. LaRoche struck out before Michael Morse's ground-rule double to right field scored Harper, sending Zimmerman to third. Ian Desmond singled to right, scoring Zimmerman and Morse. A sliding catch by right fielder Adrian Gonzalez, who then caught Ian Desmond off first base for a double play to end the fourth, helped Matsuzaka out of further trouble.

Franklin Morales relieved Matsuzaka and threw three perfect innings with three strikeouts. Alfredo Aceves pitched a clean ninth.

Sean Burnett pitched a perfect eighth inning for Washington and Tyler Clippard earned his seventh save with a scoreless ninth.

NOTES: Outfielder Marlon Byrd was designated for assignment to make room on the Red Sox roster for right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka to start Saturday's game. Byrd was acquired in a trade with the Cubs on April 21. ... Left fielder Carl Crawford threw for the first time Friday from about 60 feet and repeated that Saturday when he also took batting practice on the field. Crawford started the season on the disabled list after surgery on his left (throwing) wrist and mid-January and a subsequent elbow ailment. There is still no timetable for his return. ... Center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury hit off a tee for five consecutive days. Ellsbury has been on the DL since April 14 with a right shoulder subluxation. There is no timetable for his return. ... Outfielder Cody Ross, on the DL since May 19 with a fracture of the navicular bone in his left foot, took batting practice on the field. ... Red Sox No. 5 starter Daniel Bard, demoted to Triple-A Pawtucket earlier this week, started Friday night. He went one inning, giving three runs and two hits with two hit batters. ... With 13 strikeouts Friday night, Stephen Strasburg now has 208 strikeouts in 29 career games. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he is just the sixth pitcher since 1900 to reach 200 strikeouts in 30 or fewer games, along with Hideo Nomo (23 games), Kerry Wood (23), Dwight Gooden (25), Mark Prior (27), and Herb Score (29). ... Nationals pitchers entered Saturday leading the major leagues in ERA at 2.92, opponents' on-base percentage (.289), slugging percentage (.349), strikeouts-per-nine innings (8.55), hits-per-nine innings (7.35), WHIP (1.15), baserunners allowed per nine innings (10.53), and OPS against (.637). ... The Nationals entered the day with a record of 33-23, eight games ahead of last season after 56 games (25-31) and three games better than their best 56-game mark of 30-26 in 2005 since moving to Washington, D.C. The 1994 Montreal Expos at 34-22 were the last team in franchise history with a better record after 56 games

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