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In defeat, Beckett is lone star

Offense struggles in supporting role

David Ortiz offers Josh Beckett support in the dugout, but the offense didn't help on the field. David Ortiz offers Josh Beckett support in the dugout, but the offense didn't help on the field. (JIM DAVIS/GLOBE STAFF)

The eight strong innings were of little consolation to Josh Beckett.

Even though he pitched one of his best games of the season yesterday, allowing just two runs and seven hits, it went down as a loss. The Red Sox mustered just one run for their ace, falling, 2-1.

"I was the second-best pitcher today," Beckett said. "That's the bottom line."

In this case, the pitchers' duel went to Blue Jays rookie Jesse Litsch -- who will make the major-league minimum salary this year, as opposed to Beckett's $6.67 million -- though Beckett matched his longest outing of the season and kept Toronto's hitters guessing for most of the afternoon.

"He threw the ball well, mixed up his pitches well, kept guys off balance, and made some big pitches when he needed to," said catcher Doug Mirabelli, filling in for Jason Varitek, who had the day off after getting banged up behind the plate Saturday night.

The only glitch for Beckett, who threw 118 pitches and struck out eight to bring his season total to 100, came in the second inning, when he allowed both runs.

With two outs, Beckett left a pitch over the middle to Lyle Overbay, who crushed it to the garage door in center for a double. He was followed by second baseman Aaron Hill, who finished the four-game series 7 for 16 with four RBIs. ("A guy that's just been killing us," said Sox manager Terry Francona.)

Beckett tried to go inside with a fastball but left it up, and Hill knocked it off the Green Monster to score Overbay for the game's first run.

Shortstop Royce Clayton followed by poking another Beckett mistake over leaping first baseman Kevin Youkilis and into right field, scoring Hill and putting Toronto up, 2-0. "I was trying to go down and away and it was right down the [expletive] middle," he said.

Normally during Beckett's starts, the deficit wouldn't be much of a problem. He receives 6.8 runs of support per game, easily the best on the team, including a 15-run outburst in his last start July 5 against Tampa Bay.

But yesterday the Sox came up with just a single run as Beckett took the hard-luck loss, lowering his record to 12-3.

"I don't worry about that," Beckett said of his run support. "I go out there and try to get outs. We've got guys playing hurt. I'm not worried about if they go out there and score 15 runs every time I pitch."

After the second, Beckett rarely encountered trouble. He allowed runners on first and second in the fourth and fifth innings, but got out of the jams by getting Clayton to ground out in the fourth and striking out designated hitter Matt Stairs with a fastball an inning later.

"They made him work a lot," Mirabelli said. "He threw a lot of pitches. But the bottom line, during those innings, he made his pitches and got his outs."

In the eighth -- with his pitch count topping 100 -- Beckett allowed a two-out single to Troy Glaus, bringing pitching coach John Farrell to the mound for a conference.

Beckett then walked Overbay, but with Mike Timlin and Javier Lopez warming up and the dangerous Hill in the batter's box, Francona didn't make a call to the bullpen.

His explanation for sticking with Beckett was simple.

"I thought he'd get him out," Francona said. "If I ever think somebody's not going to get him out, I'll take him out."

Indeed, Beckett got Hill to fly to right, and came off to a standing ovation. But in defeat, he was far from satisfied.

"You get outpitched, you lose," Beckett said. "That's what happened today."

Daniel Malloy can be reached at dmalloy@globe.com.

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