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Beckett holds the fort

He hangs in there until bats awaken

By Nicole Auerbach
Globe Correspondent / July 24, 2011

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On June 28, the Phillies shut out the Red Sox.

Since then, no team has kept the Sox off the scoreboard. So when starter Josh Beckett said he knew his teammates would score runs for him - despite a game that was scoreless through six innings - his optimism seemed justified.

After Beckett allowed a solo home run to Mariners left fielder Mike Carp in the seventh, the Red Sox stormed back with three runs in the bottom of the inning. It marked the first time in 18 innings that Beckett received run support, dating to the second inning of Beckett’s start against the Orioles July 8.

Three runs were all the Red Sox needed.

Daniel Bard preserved the lead and Jonathan Papelbon closed out the game. The Red Sox won, 3-1, in front of a sold-out crowd at Fenway Park.

“We’re going to score runs,’’ Beckett said.

“I just happen to be a guy going against the guy that’s pitching well the last couple of starts. I know we’re going to score runs, like we did [last night]. Eventually, once you get three, four times through our lineup, it’s going to happen.’’

Beckett was asked what it’s like to receive the kind of run support he did last night - which served as a pick-me-up after the Mariners took the game’s first lead.

“It’s nice,’’ Beckett said. “It’s real nice. Generally, good things happen, especially when you’re on a club like ours.’’

Good things also tend to follow good pitching.

Beckett went seven innings, scattering seven hits, walking one, and striking out seven. He escaped a couple of jams with key strikeouts and a spectacular defensive play from third baseman Kevin Youkilis after the Mariners had loaded the bases in the seventh.

“It comes down to executing pitches when you need to,’’ Beckett said. “I got out of a jam in the sixth, and I was a little bit spent going out in the seventh. Youk made a great play to hold it to one run.’’

Youkilis’s play proved critical since the Sox batters had struggled against the Mariners’ Blake Beavan their first 2 1/2 times through the order. With two outs in the seventh, Jason Varitek sparked the three-run Sox rally that changed the game.

With the win, Beckett improved to 9-3 and dropped his ERA to 2.07, which is the second-best ERA in the American League. Last night marked the 11th start in which Beckett allowed one run or fewer.

Talk about consistency.

“Beckett was tremendous,’’ Sox manager Terry Francona said. “He’s been like that every game. He had to be that good because their guy was terrific. Because of the way Beckett pitched, it gave us a chance to have meaningful runs late.’’

Francona didn’t mean it that way in his postgame comments, but those runs proved to be especially meaningful - for Francona himself.

The win was Francona’s 1,000th managerial victory.

“If he was a pitcher, it’d be more impressive,’’ Beckett joked. “It’s nice to win any time, but yeah, it’s nice to pitch in games like that - when they mean something to someone else.’’

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