Long road home; Ortiz breaks out of slump just in time for Sox.


Byline: Greg Beacham

OAKLAND, Calif. - After opening day in Japan, an exhibition weekend in Los Angeles and yet another opener in Oakland, the Boston Red Sox are finally headed back east from the Far East.

And they're still off to a rock-solid start to their crazy season.

Jon Lester pitched three-hit ball into the seventh inning, David Ortiz broke open a scoreless game with a two-run homer and the Red Sox beat the Athletics, 5-0, yesterday.

Kevin Youkilis had a double and a run-scoring single while setting the major league record for consecutive errorless games by a first baseman as the Red Sox defeated the A's for the third time in a four-game series that began last week in Tokyo. Boston won two straight in Oakland, with Lester and Daisuke Matsuzaka carrying the Red Sox until their hitters perked up.

"We're certainly not on all cylinders," manager Terry Francona said. "That may be part of the trip ... but what they did today was good enough."

The Red Sox still aren't done with a 16,000-mile trip that included two exhibitions against Japanese teams and a game in front of 115,300 fans at Los Angeles' Memorial Coliseum. Boston has a three-game weekend series in Toronto before finally getting back to Fenway Park.

Lester (1-1), who lost his season debut in Japan, didn't allow an Oakland runner to reach second base after the first inning. He retired 10 straight batters before Emil Brown dropped a weak single into right field with two outs in the seventh. Lester then left to a standing ovation from a crowd made up of roughly 75 percent Red Sox fans.

"I don't think the whole Japan thing is as big a deal as everybody is making it out to be," Lester said. "Sure, it was a long flight, but we had a few days to adjust, and now I think it's fine."

Jason Varitek added a ninth-inning homer for Boston, and relievers Bryan Corey and Manny Delcarmen completed the shutout for the World Series champions, who held the A's to one run in the last two games.

Ortiz was hitless in his first 12 at-bats this season before a fifth-inning single. He followed with a drive over the right-field fence against former Red Sox reliever Alan Embree (0-1) as the A's bullpen wasted Rich Harden's second strong start.

"I always do, I don't know why," Ortiz said of his penchant for slow starts. "It's about the same this year. It might be a little more crazy because we've been out of the country for a while."

Lester was matched by Harden, the injury-plagued right-hander who started...

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