Beckett (8 IP, 0 R) dominates Yankees
Doubts had surrounded Josh Beckett. The Red Sox dropped him to the fourth spot in the rotation during spring training, leaving the contract extension he signed last season looking like a risky investment. At the very least, it seemed, he had to change the way he pitched to become successful again.
Beckett answered those questions the best way he could last night, dominating the Yankees over eight innings to give the desperate Red Sox a 4-0 victory before 37,861 at Fenway Park.
The righthander struck out 10, walked one, and allowed only two singles. Beckett (1-1) retired the final 14 Yankees he faced in order. He got 11 outs on the ground and allowed four balls out of the infield.
The performance gave the 2-7 Red Sox a series victory against their rivals and renewed hope that their fractured season can be turned around.
“This game was big for a lot of reasons,’’ Adrian Gonzalez said. “We needed a win, we beat the Yankees and we won a series. But it starts with Josh. That was huge.’’
Beckett allowed 29 earned runs in 26 innings against the Yankees last season. He also was inconsistent in his first start of the season against the Indians, throwing 106 pitches over five innings and giving up three runs.
But Beckett returned to ace form last night, throwing all four of his pitches for strikes and getting his fastball up to 94 miles per hour with Jason Varitek behind the plate. The 10 strikeouts were Beckett’s most since he had 10 against Oakland July 27, 2009.
“He was probably as good today as we’ve seen him in quite some time,’’ Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter said. “He’s always a challenge, but that’s as good as I’ve seen him since I don’t remember when.’’
Beckett got five strikeouts with his curveball, three with his fastball, and one each with his cutter and changeup.
“I felt like I never did get into a pattern,’’ Beckett said. “I felt like I was throwing everything.’’
Despite Beckett having thrown only 103 pitches, Francona had Jonathan Papelbon pitch the ninth inning.
“No,’’ Francona said when asked if he considered letting Beckett try to finish his gem. “It had been in the middle of the lineup. If he walks a guy, or an error or a hit. He pitched great, but no.’’
Said Beckett: “It’s not my decision.’’
Papelbon retired the side in order, striking out two. The Yankees did not put a runner on base after the fourth inning.
Marco Scutaro had two hits and two RBIs and Dustin Pedroia had three more hits as the Sox managed enough offense despite leaving 16 runners on base. CC Sabathia (0-1) took the loss.
Beckett retired the first seven Yankees, using a sharp curveball to strike out Brett Gardner, Nick Swisher, and Jorge Posada and a 94-m.p.h. fastball to freeze Mark Teixeira for a called third strike.
Eric Chavez, added to the lineup after Alex Rodriguez was scratched with flu-like symptoms, singled with one out in the third inning. Beckett then hit Russell Martin.
Gardner followed with a ground ball to the right of second base. Pedroia had one chance at a double play with the speedy Gardner running and he converted it, touching the bag and spinning to make a strong throw to first.
“Biggest pitch I had to make,’’ Beckett said.
Pedroia led off the bottom of the inning with a single to center. A single by Gonzalez moved him to third before Kevin Youkilis walked on five pitches to load the bases.
David Ortiz swung at the first pitch he saw and grounded to second base. The Yankees turned the double play but the Red Sox did not score a run as umpire Mark Wegner called Youkilis for interference for leaving the baseline. Pedroia had to go back to third.
“I wasn’t even close. I slid like 15 feet before the base and I ended up low and touched the base reaching back,’’ Youkilis said.
Mike Cameron’s infield single scored Pedroia before J.D. Drew struck out. The Red Sox led, 1-0, but should have had more.
Sabathia allowed nine hits and four walks over 5 2/3 innings, but only one run.
The Sox put another runner on to start the seventh when Ortiz drew a walk off Joba Chamberlain. Drew walked and Varitek singled to load the bases with one out.
Scutaro was next and he rifled the second pitch he saw, a fastball, down the left-field line for a two-run double. The shortstop is 9 for 16 with the bases loaded since joining the Red Sox last season.
The Sox added another run in the eighth inning on a booming RBI double to center by Ortiz. This game, perhaps, will be the one that signals a change of direction.
“We played better this weekend in every way, shape, or form,’’ said Varitek. “We need to continue to do that.’’