DENVER — There was no magical transformation back to the dominating, three-time All-Star. Yet Josh Beckett’s debut as a Los Angeles Dodger Monday night in the wake of the blockbuster trade with the Red Sox was not a dud, either.
Beckett absorbed the loss, trailing, 3-0, to the third-worst team in baseball, when he was pulled after 5⅔ innings. Colorado went on to win, 10-0, at Coors Field.
“I was the second-best pitcher out there,’’ said Beckett, in reference to his Rockies counterpart, Jeff Francis. “Jeff kept us off-balance and made pitches when he needed to.’’
Beckett, 32, extended his streak of 100-strikeout seasons to 11, joining CC Sabathia as the only hurlers in baseball with such a stretch.
“The last pitch I made, I really want to take back,’’ said Beckett of the pitch that rookie Josh Rutledge fisted into center for an RBI single.
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly was just looking for Beckett to keep the Dodgers in the game. The loss dropped Los Angeles 2½ games behind the idle San Francisco Giants in the National League West.
“He made quality pitches,’’ Mattingly said. “You can win with his stuff, but we’ve got to help him offensively.’’
Beckett was seeking a fresh start after his departure from Boston.
“I’ve only been here a couple days,’’ he said. “I’m still feeling things out. I am still trying to get comfortable.’’
The conditions were favorable for Beckett given the woes of the injury-riddled Rockies. The righthander was facing a starting lineup of five rookies, two second-year players, All-Star Carlos Gonzalez, and the lefthander Francis. The matchup with Francis marked a rematch of Game 1 of the 2007 World Series, when Beckett fanned the first four batters en route to a dominating seven-inning performance in which he gave up only one run and struck out nine.
After Francis sailed through the top of the first, Beckett was welcomed to the division by outfielder Tyler Colvin. On his second pitch, Beckett delivered a fastball right over the plate and Colvin deposited it into the right-field balcony.
When asked his reaction to Colvin’s moon shot, Beckett said: “I was thinking that was a pretty [expletive] pitch. That’s what I was thinking.’’
The inauspicious start proved to be a minor bump as Beckett retired the next three batters.
Beckett maintained fastball command into the third inning when he issued a two-out, full-count walk to rookie Jordan Pacheco. Facing the Rockies’ best hitter, Gonzalez, Beckett induced an 0-and-1 fly out to shallow right field.
In the fourth, Beckett allowed a two-out triple to rookie Chris Nelson, then surrendered an RBI single to rookie DJ LeMahieu. Firing in the low 90s on his next pitch, Beckett got Jonathan Herrera to line to center field and trailed, 2-0.
Beckett showed veteran guile in the fifth, striking out pinch hitter Dexter Fowler, then allowing a walk and a fielder’s choice before intentionally walking Gonzalez to face a rising young catcher, Wilin Rosario. But Rosario was not up to Beckett’s stuff and struck out on three pitches, including a curveball in the dirt for strike three.
Showing endurance after an eight-day gap between starts, Beckett stayed strong into the sixth, striking out LeMahieu looking at a 91-mile-per-hour fastball for the second out.
But in a showdown with Rutledge, Beckett left an 0-and-1 pitch over the plate and Rutledge dumped it into shallow center to plate Colorado’s third run. At that point, Mattingly replaced Beckett with Randy Choate.
“I feel like I made some pitches when I needed to and didn’t make some when I needed to,’’ Beckett said. “You still have to make pitches; you make pitches, you get outs.’’
Beckett was greeted by the Dodgers rotation as a godsend, making an accelerated debut in place of Chad Billingsley, who went on the disabled list Sunday.
Pitching stalwart Clayton Kershaw said, “I was excited about it. I think Josh has been a really good pitcher for a really long time. More than anything, he brings some postseason experience, he brings some veteran presence that we do have in our staff, but he’s seen it from all angles, he’s been through it all, he’s been to a World Series, he’s performed really well in the postseason.”
Added Kershaw, “The NL has a pitcher [in the lineup] so it is little bit easier probably, and Josh has had success in Florida in the NL. It is definitely not Fenway [hard to pitch], and definitely not the AL East.’’
Moreover, Beckett has a new lease on his baseball life, following the Red Sox’ disappointing end to the 2011 season and his own struggles in 2012.
Kershaw said: “I don’t know what all went on in Boston and I don’t care to know, to be honest. In talking to him, he’s been a great guy, same with Adrian [Gonzalez], same with Nick [Punto], everybody who came over from Boston, they look like great guys, fun to be around, guys who want to win, just like we do, so it should be fun.’’
Adrian Gonzalez, who views the move as a positive in many areas, expects to see the previously dominant Beckett.
“Josh is the ultimate competitor,’’ Gonzalez said. “He’s just a great pitcher, he’s going to do what he’s done his whole career, go out there and give it his best.’’