Boston's Daisuke Matsuzaka and Cleveland's C.C. Sabathia carried a combined 24 wins to the Jacobs Field mound Tuesday night but both had been miserable in their last three outings.
They felt much better after throwing seven brilliant innings apiece. But only Matsuzaka could be completely satisfied after the Red Sox eked out a 1-0 win over the Indians before a clearly split crowd of 39,339.
"Those two guys really faced off out there and you had a feeling it would be a one-run game, low scoring," said Cleveland manager Eric Wedge. "Ultimately, it ended up being just that."
Matsuzaka, who gave up a season-high 12 hits to the Indians when they beat him May 30 in Boston, was 1-2 with a 7.31 earned-run average in his last three starts. Sabathia was even worse -- 1-2, 8.47.
Both regained their form Tuesday.
Matsuzaka (12-7) threw 98 pitches, scattering four hits and three walks while striking out five. Sabathia (13-5), who failed to become the majors' first 14-game winner, allowed five hits and no walks. He struck out seven.
The Red Sox have won five straight games, including the first two in this series. It was the 100th game of the season for both teams; Boston is 61-39, Cleveland fell to 58-42 with its first home shutout loss of the season.
Sabathia gave up three hits in a span of four batters in the fourth inning as Boston scored the only run.
With one out, Kevin Youkilis looped a single to right that Cleveland's Trot Nixon short-hopped on a diving attempt to corral. Youkilis went to second on Manny Ramirez's single and scored when Lowell's bleeder to left dropped in just in front of a headlong stretch by Ben Francisco, who initially broke back on the ball and recovered too late.
"I kind of figured he wasn't going to catch it because he broke back," Sabathia said. "It's just one of those things."
Matsuzaka wriggled in and out of trouble, surviving his seven innings largely because the Indians went 0 for 8 against him with runners in scoring position. The Tribe's best chance was in the first but Jhonny Peralta struck out to leave the bases loaded.
"My stuff was about the same but I definitely felt my control was better today," Matsuzaka said through an interpretor.
Sabathia retired 10 of the first 11 Boston hitters and 10 of the final 11 after Lowell's hit.
"It definitely felt good," he said. "My last three starts weren't how my season had been going. It was good to be back throwing strikes."
The 6-foot-7, 290-pound Sabathia has 94 career victories, tops in the majors for pitchers under 28 years old. He's heading into free agency after next season and his price tag keeps going up as he puts together his best season since he went 17-5 as a 21-year-old rookie in 2001.
Matsuzaka, of course, has already cashed in for $51 million of Boston's money and continues to give the Sox what they want as well.
Matsuzaka said he wanted to go deeper into the game but manager Terry Francona would have none of it. Hideki Okajima and Jonathan Papelbon pitched perfect innings of relief, with Papelbon earning his 23rd save.
"The manager came up to me and said Okajima and Papelbon would take it from here," Matsuzaka said. "When you hear those names, it's tough to argue."
The series continues tonight at 7 as Cleveland's Fausto Carmona (12-4) tries to beat Boston's Josh Beckett (13-3) and join him atop the victory leaders chart.