Beckett escapes early hole
Four-walk parade nearly ended day
OAKLAND, Calif. — Red Sox manager Terry Francona termed Josh Beckett’s performance yesterday a “weird’’ one. That was an apt description.
Beckett went six innings against Oakland, allowing three runs and striking out seven. He was the winning pitcher in a much-needed 5-3 victory.
But the righthander nearly didn’t make it out of the third inning as he walked four in a row for the first time in his career. With one out in a scoreless game, Beckett threw 21 pitches to Coco Crisp, Daric Barton, Kurt
“I think I should have only walked three of them,’’ said Beckett, who thought he had Barton struck out.
With Michael Bowden warming in a hurry, Beckett fanned Mark Ellis on four pitches, then he got Jeremy Hermida on a line drive to right field.
“That whole inning pretty much was pitching from behind and that’s not the position you want to be in,’’ Beckett said. “I was very fortunate there were balls guys could make plays on.’’
Beckett collected himself in the dugout afterward and was able to give the Sox three more innings.
“You’re kind of on the edge of your seat after the third inning,’’ Francona said. “JB found a way. He made some big pitches with men on base, wiggled out of it, and gave us a chance.’’
Beckett has made four consecutive quality starts. But he’s not remotely pleased with how he has been pitching.
“I made some pitches when I needed to,’’ he said. “I need to figure out a way to do better than that. I was just a little out of it today.’’
Atchison dropped his earned run average to 3.62 in 36 appearances and has allowed one run in his last 10 innings. Not bad for a former Japanese league pitcher who barely survived the last cut in spring training then was optioned three times.
“He’s come a long way. We kept saying we really like this guy,’’ Francona said. “He was on that up and down thing because we had the flexibility. We kept saying we kind of liked the way he pitches and we don’t envision him as the 12th guy [on the staff]. Especially against righties, he can be a valuable guy.’’
Atchison is ensuring himself a spot on the roster next season.
“When the phone rings, I’m always ready,’’ he said. “It’s come later and it’s been fun. It gives me a ton [of confidence]. It’s nice to know somebody trusts you back there.’’
Victor Martinez has been carrying the offense of late and needs to play. The Sox also want to take a good look at Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who has caught only 34 2/3 innings since being acquired July 31.
Kevin Cash is on the roster only in case of emergency or mop-up duty. That leaves Varitek with no defined role.
“It’s [difficult] to try and find that balance,’’ Francona said.
Francona hinted that Varitek could start against Seattle tomorrow night.
One solution would be to get Saltalamacchia some at-bats at first base in place of Mike Lowell, who is 14 of 75 (.187) with two RBIs in his last 23 games.
“He’s been taking grounders there and I’d like to let him play some at first,’’ Francona said. “But I don’t want to be unfair to him.’’
The Sox have been impressed with what they have seen in Saltalamacchia behind the plate.
“We’re pleased because every time he’s caught, [pitchers] have gone deep in the game,’’ Francona said. “He’s very enthusiastic about trying to learn. There’s a lot getting thrown at him in a hurry. But that’s part of it and he’s doing OK.’’