Dustin Pedroia, Buck's former teammate at Arizona State, fielded the ball just in front of the second-base bag and fired to first. But it was just late, ending a game that lasted four hours and 24 minutes.
"He chopped the ball really high," Pedroia said. "I got to it as fast as I could and got rid of it as fast as I could. He runs well and it didn't really help he was left-handed. He beat it out."
This marks the first time the Red Sox have started a season 2-6 since 1996, and just the second time since 1966 they've opened with that record.
With Matsuzaka being pulled after the one inning (five hits, five runs, two walks, no strikeouts) with what the Red Sox described as arm fatigue, Francona had to piece together the rest of the night.
By the time the 12th rolled around, Javier Lopez, typically Boston's lefty specialist, was basically all Francona had left. The only reliever who didn't pitch was Takashi Saito, who hasn't yet been given the clearance to work on back-to-back days.
Lopez walked three batters -- Jason Giambi, Jack Cust and Bobby Crosby -- to set up Buck's winner.
"Javy is in a tough spot," Francona said. "This was his third game in a row. Seven games into the season, that's tough duty. We didn't have a choice. He got the ball on the ground, bang-bang play, and it goes against you."
Lopez didn't use his recent workload as an excuse.
"I came in, guys were doing a hell of a job pitching in the bullpen," Lopez said. "I was just trying to keep up with that. Got out of rhythm a little bit and that's ultimately what hurt me there. I put those guys on base. Giving guys free passes in extra innings isn't exactly a way to have success and it got me there at the end."
Before Lopez, the bullpen was brilliant.
Justin Masterson fired four innings, allowing two hits and no walks while striking out six. Of Masterson's 60 pitches, 42 were for strikes.
"I still felt pretty good," Masterson said. "I was happy to be out there, under control, and still locating my pitches pretty good. I was ready to go for however many they needed."
Francona appreciated the performance.
"That's some kind of effort," Francona said. "If he doesn't do that -- and again, it's heartbreaking to lose in 12 -- but if he doesn't do that, we're not in position to even have a chance to win that game. He pitched his heart out. Our bullpen did a great job."
Manny Delcarmen (1 2/3 innings), Ramon Ramirez (1 1/3), Hideki Okajima (two innings) and Jonathan Papelbon (one inning) all did their jobs.
"Phenomenal job," Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek said. "They did a great job. I can't really say much more than that."
As for Matsuzaka, his performance washed away a 3-0 lead built by the Red Sox in the top of the first.
"It was a similar result to last time and I feel very apologetic," said Matsuzaka, who gave up nine hits and four runs in a loss to the Rays in his first start of the season.
"I don't know what it is," Varitek said. "I can't answer for that. They did swing the bats. It was quite a bit windy. Probably not the easiest feel for the baseball either. We weren't able to get out of that first to see if he could get a feel."
Masterson's performance bought the Red Sox time to stage another rally against A's starter Dana Eveland in the fifth. With runners at the corners and one out, Jason Bay got a run home on a fielder's choice grounder. Mike Lowell tied it up with a single off the glove of third baseman Crosby, who entered the game following a calf injury to Nomar Garciaparra.
Nobody could have known at the time how long it would stay tied.
"We played really hard," Pedroia said. "I thought we swung the bats a lot better for the most part. It's just one of those things where we have to put them both together -- we have to pitch and hit. When we do that we're going to be a tough team to beat."