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Mistakes eventually cost Beckett

Starters are still lacking quality

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By Julian Benbow
Globe Staff / September 22, 2011

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Even in the early going last night at Fenway Park, when Josh Beckett seemed to be cruising through his second start since spraining his ankle Sept. 5, he knew he was getting away with some things.

A couple of fly outs on mistake pitches. A walk that ended up being harmless.

Even the pitch that Orioles first baseman Mark Reynolds hammered over the Monster in the second inning - “a front-door cutter that cut too much,’’ as manager Terry Francona described it - did minimal damage, as it was a solo shot.

Through five innings Beckett was two batters over the minimum. But eventually his mistakes caught up with him.

He faced Reynolds again in the seventh and hung a curveball that Reynolds hammered into the Monster seats for a two-run homer. Beckett came back out for the eighth and gave up a single to J.J. Hardy, then issued a ground-rule double to Nick Markakis before getting the hook.

When Alfredo Aceves came on and gave up a two-run single to Vladimir Guerrero, it put the Orioles up, 6-4, the score they’d go on to win by.

The Sox hadn’t had a quality start from a pitcher in 15 games and not even Beckett was able to give them one.

Considering their current circumstances, having lost five of their last six and clinging to a slim 2 1/2-game wild-card lead over the Rays and Angels, it was disappointing.

“It’s pretty tough,’’ Beckett said. “I wish I could have done better. Things just haven’t worked out. I got away with some pitches early and I didn’t get away with them later on.

“It was pretty good through five, but I’m just [upset] with the results.’’

There was almost no question Beckett was going to have to eat innings last night.

The Sox used seven pitchers in Tuesday night’s loss to the Orioles, so there was essentially no other alternative but for Beckett to go deep into the game.

Beckett allowed six runs in 7 1/3 innings. It was his highest run total this season, and the most he’d given up since Aug. 18, 2010, against the Angels.

Aceves started warming up in the seventh after Reynolds’s second home run. But Beckett felt good enough to start the eighth.

“I felt OK,’’ he said. “It wasn’t a deal where my legs were going or anything like that.’’

“You want to pitch good all year long,’’ Beckett added. “Especially whenever your team needs you. You want to give them innings and quality innings. That was something that I wasn’t able to do.’’

In the past 18 games, Sox starters are 3-9 with an ERA of 6.75.

Beckett struck out eight last night, seven through the first six innings. But the start was spoiled in the end.

Catcher and captain Jason Varitek said he is confident the starters eventually will come around.

“It’s got to be on the horizon,’’ said Varitek. “Because they’ve done it. They’ve done it at different times this year. And, well, we need it.’’

“We’re basically just keeping pace right now,’’ Beckett said. “Right now it’s just kind of status quo. Would we like it to be different? Yeah. We would have liked to pick up a game or two today or the day before.’’

Julian Benbow can be reached at jbenbow@globe.com.

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