CHICAGO - JUNE 17: Starting pitcher Dallas Braden #51 of the Oakland Athletics delivers the ball against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on June 17, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Preview: A's Look To Even Series With Red Sox As Dallas Braden Returns To The Rotation

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Preview: A's Look To Even Series With Red Sox As Dallas Braden Returns To The Rotation

(Sports Network) - After getting an important West Coast road trip off to a good start, the Boston Red Sox shoot for a second straight win over the Oakland Athletics when the teams continue a three-game series tonight at the Coliseum.

Boston entered last night's matchup with the surging Athletics having lost eight of their past 11 contests, but were able to snap Oakland's season-high five-game win streak with a 2-1 decision in the opener. Daisuke Matsuzaka threw 6 2/3 strong innings to lead the way, while Adrian Beltre went 3-for-4 with a solo home run to pace the Red Sox offensively.

Beltre broke a 1-1 deadlock with a blast off A's starter Ben Sheets in the top of the fourth inning, and Matsuzaka (7-3) made the lead stand by limiting Oakland to the one run and a mere two hits before turning the game over to the Boston bullpen. Daniel Bard followed with 1 1/3 scoreless innings before closer Jonathan Papelbon threw a 1-2-3 ninth to record his 21st save.

"He was able to throw strikes with every pitch that he has," Red Sox catcher Kevin Cash said of Matsuzaka. "He even broke out his changeup, which he doesn't use that much recently, and it was pretty effective for him. When you can get that cut fastball into lefties and then get ahead with his fastball down and away to righties, he's going to have good outings."

Boston, which had dropped three of four bouts at home to American League West- leading Texas to begin its post-All Star break schedule, remained 3 1/2 games behind Tampa Bay for the lead in the league's Wild Card race. The Red Sox are six back of the first-place New York Yankees in the AL East standings.

Sheets (4-9) pitched well in a losing cause, allowing both Boston runs on seven hits over 6 2/3 innings of work.

"It's been up and down for me," said Sheets, who fired six shutout innings to beat the Los Angeles Angels in his previous start. "It seems like every time I get on a high, I come back down. There's still a lot of season left, though."

Oakland managed just three hits on the night, with Rajai Davis' solo homer in the third inning accounting for the team's only run.

The Red Sox will now try to register back-to-back wins for the first time since July 2-3 and send Tim Wakefield to the mound tonight. The veteran knuckleballer hopes to end his own recent struggles, as he's gone 1-4 with a 5.94 ERA over his last six starts and permitted four or more runs in five of those outings.

Wakefield is coming off an especially ineffective appearance against the Rangers on Thursday, when he was battered for seven runs (six earned) and eight hits before being yanked after only two innings of his club's 7-2 loss. In his final start before the All-Star break, the right-hander surrendered six runs and walked six in 5 2/3 frames in a July 7 setback at Tampa Bay.

The 43-year-old also wasn't sharp in a matchup with the A's on June 3, with Wakefield being tagged for six runs and serving up two homers through six innings to take a loss. He's 11-7 with a 4.22 ERA in 40 lifetime games, 22 of which have been starts, against Oakland, however.

Dallas Braden draws the assignment for the Athletics tonight and will be making his first start since June 22. The left-hander has missed close to a month with elbow soreness, but pronounced himself ready to go after completing a successful bullpen session on Sunday.

Braden is best known for throwing the 19th perfect game in major league history in a 4-0 verdict over Tampa Bay May 9 at the Coliseum. He's yet to win since accomplishing the memorable feat, however, having gone 0-5 with a 4.32 ERA in eight subsequent starts. Poor run support has played a part in Braden's drought, as the A's scored two or less runs in seven of those games.

The 26-year-old took another loss in his most recent start, a 4-2 defeat to Cincinnati in which he allowed four runs (three earned) and 10 hits over six innings.

Braden is 1-1 with a 5.79 ERA in two career meetings with the Red Sox, garnering that only victory with six innings of two-run ball at the Coliseum last season.

The Red Sox did win two of three games from the A's in a series held at Fenway Park earlier this season, but had lost in five of their past six visits to the Coliseum before last night's triumph.

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