CLEVELAND -- With the Red Sox at bat in the eighth inning and behind, 15-3, last night, Terry Francona approached Alex Cora with a question: Can you pitch? The Sox manager did not ask the other natural question: Have you pitched in the big leagues?
''I'm not sure I wanted to know the answer," said Francona, who could not recall pitching a position player (''I detest it," he later said.).
If he'd asked Cora when he last pitched he might have gotten the answer Cora gave after the game.
''Till I was 16," the 30-year-old said.
But the $7.75 million man, Keith Foulke, a genuine model member of the bullpen this season, went back out for a second inning because, Francona said, ''Foulke actually felt the inning would help him."
The former closer was perhaps the only person in a Boston uniform able to see a positive in a game that had devolved into the team's most lopsided loss since Toronto piled up a 15-2 win last July 1 at Fenway. And it was ugly.
Josh Beckett, once 3-0 with a 1.29 ERA, is now 3-1 with a 4.50 ERA, roughed up for 14 runs (13 earned) and six home runs in his past two starts. In his past 4 1/3 innings, against the Indians and Blue Jays, he has allowed 12 runs (11 earned) and five home runs.
Cleveland's 4-5-6 hitters (Travis Hafner, Victor Martinez, and Ben Broussard) combined to go 5 for 8 with three home runs, seven walks, seven runs, and 11 RBIs. Broussard knocked in eight runs by himself, most by an Indian since Manny Ramírez did it in September 1999. Broussard accounted for five of those on two home runs off Beckett, including a first-inning grand slam, the first Beckett had allowed.
The Indians piled up 15 runs on just 11 hits. They did so because Sox pitchers, who'd walked just 51 in 21 games, walked a season-high 10. Cleveland scored in every inning but the fifth and eighth. And the damage again came early, as the Sox were outscored, 17-4, in Innings 1-4 in the series. They were outscored, 22-4, over the last two games (both losses) and 28-12 in the series, losing two of three to fall to 2-4 on this nine-game trip that rolls into Tampa Bay tonight.
Beckett needed an astounding 100 pitches to complete just 3 2/3 innings. He allowed a career-high nine runs (eight earned) on six hits (half of them home runs) and five walks. In Beckett's first 106 starts, he allowed three home runs in a game only once. He's now done it in back-to-back starts.
He looked fine initially, allowing a leadoff single to begin the night, then mowing down Jason Michaels (three K's vs. Beckett) and getting Jhonny Peralta to ground out. His fastball was touching 97 miles per hour. Beckett looked healthy (''Physically," he later said, ''I'm fine.") and he looked strong. He just wasn't accurate.
On four pitches, he walked Hafner (career-high four walks, three vs. Beckett). He then walked Martinez, who began the game with a major league-leading 15-game hitting streak.
That brought up Broussard (.474, 4 homers, 16 RBIs in his past 13 games). With two outs, he went up looking fastball, got one at 96 m.p.h., and turned on it, sending an absolute skyscraper into the Cleveland night for a 4-0 lead.
Broussard, leading off the third, again got a fastball, this time on 1 and 0. Same spot, Beckett acknowledged. Broussard powered it by the pole in right and into the second deck, 421 feet away, for his fifth career two-homer game.
''They're an extremely good fastball-hitting team," Francona said, ''and I don't think it looked like we had much success with anything offspeed, especially early. He threw a fastball in the middle [of the plate]. Broussard's ball obviously hurt us. And then he threw another one."
Beckett was at 75 pitches through three innings. He began the fourth with two quick strikeouts, of Grady Sizemore swinging and Michaels looking. But he walked Peralta, got ahead of Hafner, 0 and 2, then walked him on four consecutive balls. Al Nipper visited the mound after the walk. Four pitches after Nipper's visit, Martinez cranked Beckett's 100th pitch off the facing of the second deck in right.
That was it for Beckett, who left with the Sox behind, 9-1, in the fourth.
''Just one of those nights, brutal, brutal, brutal," Beckett said. ''No excuses. You've got to go out and execute pitches. If you don't do that, balls get [whacked] all over the place just like they did."
Rudy Seanez, in relief of Beckett, recorded three consecutive K's but walked Sizemore and Michaels to begin the sixth. Julian Tavarez entered, got a double-play ground out, walked two, then gave up a wringing two-run single to Broussard for his seventh and eighth RBIs and a 11-2 lead. It was an odd at-bat. Jason Varitek visited Tavarez for a lengthy period before Broussard hit. Then, after the two-run single, the emotional Tavarez appeared to dismissingly wave his hand in Varitek's direction. Varitek dressed and left as soon as the clubhouse opened.
Tavarez, walking out of Jacobs Field, was asked if they'd disagreed on something.
''No," Tavarez said. ''I said, 'I left a changeup up.' It was 1 and 2. I left it in the middle. I said, 'My fault. I left it up in the middle of the plate.' "
Manny Delcarmen followed, pitching two-thirds of the seventh inning, leaving after allowing four runs (two earned).
''Delcarmen came in, same thing [as Beckett] -- fastball, fastball, they're just launching them," Francona said. ''They're getting their arms extended. You've got to pitch these guys in hard and then soft away and we weren't able to throw much soft over the plate."