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Beckett refuses to give in

Righthander focuses on wins, progress

By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / August 31, 2010

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By his standards, the improvement Josh Beckett has made recently is minimal. But at least it’s something.

After rocky outings against the Yankees, Rangers, and Angels earlier this month that left him with a 6.67 earned run average, Beckett gave up three runs in 6 1/3 innings against Seattle last Wednesday in a 5-3 victory.

Beckett also looked better during a bullpen session Saturday, throwing his fastball with good command.

“I guess I’m making progress. But I’m still not where I want to be,’’ said Beckett, who will start against the Orioles tonight in Baltimore. “But progress is good.’’

Beckett could make as many as six more starts this season. He hopes to play a role in keeping the fading Red Sox relevant for as long as possible.

“You’ve got to make pitches when you have to. Winning the games, that is the important thing,’’ he said. “We need wins. It’s pretty obvious we need to put together some kind of streak.’’

The immediate concern for Beckett is working deeper into games. He took a shutout into the sixth inning against the Angels Aug. 19 before giving up six runs.

Against the Mariners, Beckett was dominant for six innings, then could get only one out in the seventh.

“It seems like right now, one bad pitch doesn’t cost you one run. It costs you three runs or four runs,’’ he said. “I’ve got to be better in those situations. I cannot just keep us in the game. I can go deeper in the game and do things better.’’

At 4-3 and having made only 15 starts, Beckett realizes he has been a disappointment. A two-month stint on the disabled list because of a strained lower back forced him to forget any personal goals for the season. But he remains motivated.

“It doesn’t matter what I’ve gone. Right now we need to win games, and it really is that simple,’’ he said.

“At the end of the season, nobody is looking to look back and say, ‘Man, Josh did really well in September.’ I’m not worried about that. I just have to do whatever I can do to help them.’’

Beckett is 6-2 with a 3.61 ERA in 13 career starts against Baltimore. He faced them once this season, giving up two runs over seven innings May 2.

“This is a big start for me,’’ he said. “I know I need to be better.’’

Dealing’s done?
Teams have until today to acquire players who would be eligible for the postseason. The Red Sox reportedly placed a waiver claim on Angels catcher and first baseman Mike Napoli, but no deal was reached before his waiver window expired yesterday.

The Sox placed a number of players on waivers in recent weeks. With the team having little chance of the postseason, general manager Theo Epstein could be willing to deal one or two of his veterans in return for a prospect.

There is precedent for such a move. In 2006, with the Sox eight games out Aug. 31, Epstein traded lefthander David Wells to the Padres for a player to be named. That proved to be catcher George Kottaras, who went on to play 48 games for the Sox.

Bucking a trend
The Sox are 6-6 against the Orioles this season. Tonight will mark their first meeting against Baltimore since Buck Showalter was named manager July 30. He managed his first game Aug. 3 and the Orioles are 16-10 since. Baltimore swept a three-game series against the Angels over the weekend, giving up one run. The biggest improvement under Showalter has been with the pitching staff, which has a 3.36 ERA in his 26 games . . . Adrian Beltre goes into the Baltimore series with 994 career RBIs. His 88 RBIs this season lead the Sox and are good for ninth in the American League through Sunday. Beltre has not driven in 100 runs since 2004, when he had a career-high 121 for the Dodgers . . . Rookie lefthander Felix Doubront has 10 strikeouts and only two walks in eight innings of relief work . . . Daisuke Matsuzaka, who had his last start skipped because of a sore back, remains on track to start Thursday . . . Eric Patterson (0 for 4) started in center field and Jarrod Saltalamacchia (1 for 3) at catcher for Pawtucket in its game against Rochester last night as part of their rehab assignments.

Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @peteabe.

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