Red Sox scrape up a victory
Lowell connects, tempers flare as Indians are felled
The crowd of 37,714 at Fenway Park rose to its feet and applauded when Mike Lowell walked to the plate in the bottom of the second inning against the Indians last night.
Lowell had not played for the Red Sox since late June, a long stay on the disabled list followed by four days in baseball purgatory as the team tried to trade him.
But there he was, back in uniform and playing first base in place of the injured Kevin Youkilis. The fans, ever cognizant of what is going on with their team, showed Lowell that they, at least, appreciate having him around.
Before they could sit down, Lowell launched the first pitch he saw into the seats above the wall in left field. The two-run homer helped the Sox to a 3-1 victory.
“It’s been an interesting road,’’ manager Terry Francona said. “Probably only Boston. About brought the house down. I guess it’s safe to say that was an immediate impact. Good for him.’’
Lowell’s blast provided all the run support needed by Josh Beckett, who allowed one run over eight innings and retired the final 14 batters he faced. He allowed three hits and struck out eight without a walk.
When Lowell learned four hours before the game that he was to be activated, he immediately shared the news with Beckett. The two became close while playing for the Marlins, a bond strengthened when they were traded to the Sox before the 2006 season.
Nobody in Fenway enjoyed Lowell’s home run more than Beckett.
“To see a teammate, or in his case one of my best friends I’ve ever made in baseball, go through a season like this . . . he’s handled it great,’’ Beckett said. “That was a great moment.’’
With Adrian Beltre on first base after singling to shallow left, Lowell looked for a first-pitch fastball from Indians starter David Huff and got one.
“That was a good pitch to hit and I took a real good swing,’’ said Lowell, who had not played since last Wednesday, the final game of an assignment to Triple A Pawtucket to rehabilitate a hip injury.
Lowell appreciated the greeting he received from the crowd.
“I don’t know if they were clapping because they thought maybe I was gone or because they’re happy to see me still here,’’ Lowell said. “It’s a real nice feeling. Running the bases felt real good.’’
Bill Hall also homered for the Sox, a shot to left in the fourth inning. From there, it was all Beckett. He needed only 103 pitches to get through his eight innings and kept the young Indians off balance by throwing all of his pitches for strikes.
“I had some pitches to go to, whether it be a cutter or sinker,’’ Beckett said. “My changeup was a lot better as the game went on. The curveball was a lot better.’’
Cleveland advanced only two runners as far as second base, one when Lou Marson homered in the third.
“[Beckett] threw a lot of strikes, particularly early in the count. And he had a very good cutter,’’ Indians manager Manny Acta said. “He was throwing that cutter backdoor to our lefthanded hitters. And then the second time around through the lineup he had that good breaking ball going.’’
Beckett (3-1) has allowed five earned runs in 20 2/3 innings since coming off the disabled list. He is again the pitcher the Sox deemed worthy of starting on Opening Day.
“He’s letting it go,’’ Francona said. “We’ve been around him for a long time now. When he’s able to go out there with his full arsenal, he can be one of the best pitchers in the game.’’
Lowell helped his pal out with a nice play in the fifth inning, snagging a tricky hop off the bat of Trevor Crowe, then diving to the bag.
“I felt like a hockey goalie because it kind of kicked up at the last second,’’ Lowell said. “Then I turned on the jets. I knew I’d beat Beckett there. That’s all that mattered.’’
Lowell enjoyed watching Beckett work.
“I’ve seen his whole career literally, from maybe an immature brash young guy with a lot of talent to a guy that I think really understands his stuff and knows how to win,’’ Lowell said. “His attitude has always been the same; he wants to show that he’s the best guy on the field that day. As a teammate, but more as a friend, you love picking up your friend.’’
The Red Sox trail the Yankees by 5 1/2 games in the wild-card race with the teams getting ready to start a four-game series in New York on Friday.
That there is still fight left in this Sox team was evident in the eighth inning, when the benches cleared.
Beckett had hit two Indians during his outing and Cleveland clumsily tried to retaliate.
Justin Germano threw a pitch behind David Ortiz in the seventh. Jensen Lewis then did the same in the eighth with Beltre up. That prompted the teams to assemble on the infield once Beltre took a step toward the mound.
Lewis was ejected, as was Beckett for trying to get at Cleveland left fielder Shelley Duncan. Indians third base coach Steve Smith was tossed as well after he and Francona had to be separated.
“Interesting day,’’ Francona said.