While Craig Hansen warmed up to begin the eighth inning, a trivia question flashed on the JumboTron in center field. Who was the last Red Sox pitcher to homer in a game?
The answer? Josh Beckett.
But, despite what the video might have tried to relay, home runs of a different sort have become far more important to Beckett this season -- the ones that have come against him. Because, with three more in six innings of a 7-6 loss last night in front of 36,557 at Fenway Park, Beckett has watched 31 homers sail out of parks around the country. The venue hasn't mattered -- though his results at Fenway Park have been more palatable than those on the road. The home runs have come in Boston and Baltimore, Toronto and Tampa, Cleveland and Chicago. Oh, and New York, Philadelphia, and Oakland.
``It's frustrating," Beckett said. ``The loss is the most frustrating thing. We battled back there toward the end, but that loss is on me. It's not on anybody else. It's strictly mine, and I deserve it."
With 15 hits from the offense -- and, eventually, six runs -- Beckett couldn't keep a lid on the Indians to maintain the Red Sox' ``tie" for first place in the American League East. The Sox fell one game behind the Yankees, who beat Toronto, 8-1, yesterday.
Though they were down only a run in the ninth inning, with David Ortiz leading off, the Sox could not come back on this night. Not even with consecutive shots to right field by Ortiz and Manny Ramírez, both of which seemed to be knocked down by the wind, settling into the glove of Shin-Soo Choo.
That would be the grand slam-hitting Choo, the newly acquired outfielder (from Seattle) who turned five impressive innings from Beckett into yet another loss for the supposed No. 1A starter.
The grand slam came in the sixth inning after five impressive frames by Beckett, who described his outing as ``two different games." Joe Inglett sent a one-out single to right, followed by a homer from Travis Hafner (he pulled Cleveland ahead in the eighth inning with a homer Wednesday). A 3-3 game wouldn't have been so bad with four innings remaining and the clutch Sox offense to fall back on.
But Beckett couldn't keep the ball in the park (Aaron Boone homered off the foul pole in left in the third inning). After singles by Victor Martinez, Casey Blake, and Todd Hollandsworth, Choo delivered the crushing blow. Just enough, in the end, to win a game manager Terry Francona said got away from the team and Beckett ``in a hurry."
``Sure, we'd like Josh to pitch better. He'd want to pitch better," said Mike Lowell, who fouled a pitch off his left foot, requiring X-rays after the game and further examination in Tampa today when the Sox arrive for a three-game set. ``The home runs are definitely surprising. He's got great stuff when he's on. I don't know if it's the change in league or what, or just some fluke thing this year.
``I think the fact that he's given up more home runs than normal is something surprising. Sometimes that's just part of the game. Maybe next year he gives up eight all year."
OK, so it was Beckett's loss, as he acknowledged. But the offense, for its part, couldn't muster much against Indians starter Jake Westbrook, who gave up 15 hits, the most allowed by a major league starter this season.
Scoring one in the first, two more in the second, two in the sixth, and a final run in the eighth, the Red Sox nearly managed to keep pace with the Indians, who scored all their runs on three homers. Of course, for the Indians, it was the sixth that made the difference.
Down, 7-3, the Sox got the first three batters on (Wily Mo Peña single, Coco Crisp bunt, Alex Gonzalez single) in the bottom half but only scored twice when Ken Huckaby -- the rent-a-catcher who was designated for assignment after the game in anticipation of the arrival of former Braves and Orioles catcher Javy Lopez -- hit into a 6-4-3 double play. And then, after an RBI single from Kevin Youkilis, Wednesday night's hero Mark Loretta popped to second to end the inning.
It was just more inconsistency from a team that should be fattening up on the dregs of the AL (Cleveland, plus Tampa Bay, Kansas City, and Baltimore over the next two weeks), but went 3-4 on this homestand.
``We haven't played well lately," Lowell said. ``It's no secret. But one game out, by no means is this season over. There's a lot of games left. I think when we start playing a good brand of collective baseball, we can get on a roll again. Maybe take first place again tomorrow."