New beginning in Beantown

Cleveland (54-53) at Boston (67-41), 7:10 p.m. EDT

Pitching in a pennant race for the first time, Erik Bedard will do all he can to be a contributor for the Boston Red Sox.

The veteran left-hander makes his Red Sox debut Thursday night looking to help his new team to a third consecutive victory over the Cleveland Indians at Fenway Park.

With Daisuke Matsuzaka lost to Tommy John surgery and the return of Clay Buchholz this season in question, the AL East-leading Red Sox (68-41) attempted to bolster their rotation by adding Bedard from Seattle in a three-team deal Saturday.

“This is a great opportunity – I jumped from last place to first place in a heartbeat,” Bedard told the Red Sox’s official website. “I’m just going to come here and do the best I can. Try to win ballgames and help the team win.”

Since Bedard broke into the majors in 2002, no team for which he’s pitched came close to making the playoffs and only one finished above .500.

The 32-year-old Bedard (4-7, 3.45 ERA) allowed five runs and four walks in 1 1-3 innings of Seattle’s 8-0 loss to Tampa Bay on Friday in his return after missing a month with a sprained left knee. While the Mariners were intent on trading Bedard and did not give him a rehab start, Boston manager Terry Francona will keep him on a limited pitch count Thursday.

Bedard was 4-2 with a 1.77 ERA in his previous 11 starts before Friday’s performance.

“We want to help get him where he can pitch like he can pitch,” Francona said. “It might take a little while to do that. He might not be at peak efficiency yet.”

Bedard, 2-2 with a 4.44 ERA in 10 starts versus Cleveland, allowed six runs in four innings of a 6-4 loss to the Indians on April 10.

He will try to help Boston stay hot after a pair of final at-bat victories courtesy of Jacoby Ellsbury. A night after recording his first career game-winning hit with a ninth-inning single in a 3-2 win, the All-Star center fielder hit a two-out solo homer in the ninth for a 4-3 victory over Cleveland on Wednesday

“The last two days have been pretty good,” said Ellsbury, batting .369 with nine homers and 26 RBIs in his last 29 games. “We’re going to compete until the last out. We’re all excited, hopefully we win the series.”

While Boston has won 23 of 30, Cleveland (54-54) has dropped 15 of 22 to fall four games behind first-place Detroit in the Central. The Indians are at .500 for the first time since they were 2-2.

“I don’t know if it’s slipping away,” said Joe Smith, Wednesday’s loser. “The last two days we’re playing a great team.”

Though Cleveland has struggled, second baseman Jason Kipnis looks to become the first rookie since Minnesota’s Marty Cordova in 1995 to homer in five straight games. Four of Kipnis’ eight hits in 33 at-bats since making his major league debut July 22 have left the park.

Scheduled Indians starter and ex-Red Sox pitcher Justin Masterson (8-7, 2.56 ERA) is 2-0 with a 1.25 ERA in three starts against his former team. The right-hander allowed two runs in 7 2-3 innings but did not factor in the decision of a 3-2 win over Boston on May 23.

Masterson is 0-1 in his last three overall despite allowing three earned runs over 22 2-3 innings, receiving four total runs of support. He gave up two in eight innings of a 5-2 win over Kansas City on Saturday.

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