Josh wasn’t joking around
Beckett improves over last outing
BALTIMORE — Josh Beckett had stalked around the clubhouse in recent days, his focus and determination clear. He was not comfortable with his 7.22 ERA or letting his teammates down, and he was set to change the situation.
Yesterday, he pitched significantly better than he had been, throwing seven innings and allowing just two runs on six hits and no walks. Ultimately he earned a no-decision in a 3-2 loss to the Orioles. The performance was not perfect, not by any measure, but it was unquestionably better — especially compared with his outing in Toronto, when he allowed eight runs in just three innings.
“I still don’t think he was completely locked in for him,’’ catcher Jason Varitek said. “He had to battle through it. He didn’t have as good of a curveball. Made some adjustments, [he was] able to keep the ball down. When he’s able to do that, and then elevate when he wants to, it’s a big difference. Threw some sliders today. Didn’t throw quite as many changeups as we did the other day. All in all it was a really good start for us.’’
A good portion of Beckett’s struggles were with fastball command. He hadn’t had it, even as he tried to rely too heavily on his hard stuff. But that improved yesterday, with the command allowing the righthander to go to that fastball often.
“It was much better,’’ Varitek said. “For him, it was definitely a huge step forward. Still it wasn’t easy for him. He had to fight it, work hard to get it.’’
Beckett said of his fastball command, “It was pretty good. I thought sometimes I got underneath it. It’s just constant adjustments I’ve got to make.’’
Beckett allowed both runs in the fourth inning. Nick Markakis led off with a single. After Beckett hit Ty Wigginton with a pitch (for the second time in as many plate appearances), Miguel Tejada singled to load the bases. One strikeout later came a run-scoring fielder’s choice by Nolan Reimold followed by a double to left by Rhyne Hughes scoring another run.
Before the game, manager Terry Francona said Beckett and pitching coach John Farrell were working on “just remembering who he is and what he does good. Sometimes it’s easy, I think, to give the other team too much credit when things aren’t going right. Just some reminders of what he does good.’’
That seemed to come through yesterday.
“I definitely had to get better with my fastball command,’’ Beckett said. “I’ve said this before, the whole game of baseball is predicated on fastball hitting, pitching, everything. For you to compete at this level, you have to have some sort of fastball to throw everything else off of it.
“I definitely think that I took some strides forward from my previous two outings. Still, a sweep’s a sweep. It was frustrating for us to go home from that.’’
Bard allowed back-to-back singles to Adam Jones and Markakis. Wigginton bunted the runners to second and third. After Bard walked Tejada to load the bases, neither of the next two hitters could come through. Luke Scott missed a 99-mile-per-hour fastball to end his at-bat, and Reimold looked at two sliders to end the threat.
“It’s been good the last few outings,’’ Bard said of his slider. “The home run the other night was on a fastball in a fastball count. I think when I prove I can throw that pitch for a strike as well as a changeup, it just makes the fastball that much better.’’