BALTIMORE — Kevin Youkilis wasted no time getting back into a groove at the plate in his first game off the disabled list.

Sidelined since April 29 with a strained lower back, Youkilis marked his return by hitting a towering drive over the center-field fence.

Unfortunately for the Boston Red Sox, that fourth-inning shot was the extent of their offense in a 4-1 loss to the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday night.

Brian Matusz and three relievers combined on a two-hitter, and the Orioles got two-run homers from Steve Tolleson and Wilson Betemit in improving to 4-1 against Boston this season.

Red Sox starter Felix Doubront (4-2) gave up two runs and four hits in six innings and had a career-high nine strikeouts.

But Matusz was even better, yielding only two hits and a walk in 61/3 innings. He also had nine strikeouts, tying a career high.


“Felix Doubront had his good stuff,” Red Sox Manager Bobby Valentine said.

“He was battling the whole way. He just picked a night when the opposing pitcher had good stuff and shut us down.”

Doubront could only shrug his shoulders after a performance that usually results in a victory.

“He was good,” Doubront said of Matusz.

“I was talking to one of our guys. His stuff was working today. We got a pretty good duel, but he won the game.”

The Red Sox were seeking to climb over .500 for the first time this season. Instead, Boston reclaimed sole possession of last place in the AL East.


“Both pitchers did a good job,” Boston’s Adrian Gonzalez said. “We just came out on the wrong end of it.”

Matusz (4-4) was just too good.

The left-hander was 1-9 with a 10.69 ERA in 2011 and started 0-3 this season. Since then, however, he’s won three straight starts and 4 of 5.

“He didn’t miss much,” Boston catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said. “Kept the ball down. He did a pretty great job.”

The lone glaring flaw in Matusz’s effort was a fastball that Youkilis sent flying over the center-field wall. It was his third homer of the season, the first since April 26.

“That’s as good a swing as I’ve seen Youk have,” Valentine said. “Center-field power. That was a good sight.”


After Matusz left to standing ovation in the seventh, Darren O’Day struck out the final two batters in the inning.

Pedro Strop worked a hitless eighth and Jim Johnson got three straight outs to complete the two-hitter and earn his 16th save in as many tries.


NOTES: Boston 2B Dustin Pedroia had his 20-game hitting streak against the Orioles come to an end. …

The Red Sox put OF Cody Ross (broken foot) on the 15-day DL, purchased the contract of OF Scott Podsednik and moved RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka from the 15- to the 60-day DL. …

Orioles 2B Brian Roberts, who’s been sidelined for more than a year with a concussion, will begin a minor league rehabilitation assignment today with Double-A Bowie. …

Baltimore OF Adam Jones extended his hitting streak to a career-high 14 games. …

Orioles OF Nolan Reimold (back) will receive a second epidural shot Friday. “We’re hoping this does the trick,” Orioles Manager Buck Showalter said.


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