Tigers smash 5 homers, rout Beckett, Red Sox
DETROIT - Six months have flipped off the calendar since the Red Sox collapsed last September, their dispiriting plunge out of the playoffs triggering changes in the dugout and front office.
Terry Francona was ousted as manager two weeks before Theo Epstein fled to the Cubs. The Sox added six new players and spent spring training promising they had learned from the mistakes of the past.
But two games into the new season, it’s more of the same.
Josh Beckett, one of the September culprits, allowed five home runs Saturday as the Detroit Tigers beat the Red Sox, 10-0, before a crowd of 44,710.
So much for a good start. The Sox are 0-2 and have been outscored, 13-2.
“I don’t know what a start means. Is two games a start? Is a month a start,’’ said manager Bobby Valentine, who must be wondering what he signed up for at this point. “I think we can get off to a good start very easily.’’
Clay Buchholz starts Sunday as the Sox try to avoid a sweep. Then come three games in Toronto before Beckett starts the home opener Friday against the Rays, the team that knocked the Sox out of the postseason last year.
Beckett shouldn’t expect many cheers at Fenway. He was gone before the fifth inning was complete Saturday, having allowed seven runs. Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder each hit two home runs. Alex Avila had the other.
On all five occasions, Beckett threw pitches that were begging to be hit. The Tigers obliged.
“They were all in the middle of the plate and they hit them hard,’’ Beckett said.
It was a well-scrutinized start for Beckett, who was at the center of the team’s drinking scandal last season and only grudgingly acknowledged he made mistakes months after Jon Lester and Buchholz did.
The righthander pitched well in spring training despite lingering pain in his right thumb that led to his visiting two specialists last week.
Beckett also was pitching without Jason Varitek, his personal catcher. Varitek, who retired, caught all but two of Beckett’s 30 starts last season and 80 percent of the games he has started for the Red Sox.
Beckett was 0-2 with a 7.36 earned run average in the two games caught by Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who was behind the plate Saturday.
It was more of the same against the Tigers as the five home runs matched his career high. Beckett did not give up five home runs until June 28 last season. Before Saturday, he had allowed one home run in 70 at-bats against the players in the Detroit lineup.
About the only good news for Beckett was that his thumb was not the cause of his problem.
“Physically I felt great,’’ he said.
The season did not get off to a very good start for Beckett. He got ahead of Austin Jackson 1-and-2, then walked him, missing three times in a row with fastballs.
With Jackson on first base, Beckett’s pace slowed considerably. He got Brennan Boesch on a soft liner to shortstop. But Cabrera hammered a 1-and-1 fastball well over the fence in left-center.
Fielder led off the bottom of the fourth by blasting a cut fastball to the opposite field for his first home run as a member of the Tigers.
Delmon Young followed with a grounder into the hole at first. Adrian Gonzalez whiffed on the ball, but Young was given a base hit. Beckett then left a changeup over the plate that Avila also went the other way with, driving it into the Detroit bullpen in left.
Beckett allowed back-to-back home runs by Cabrera and Fielder in the fifth inning. The first, by Cabrera, was reviewed by replay and found to have cleared the fence in left after Cody Ross tried to convince the umpires it had actually gone under the fence.
Fielder has three hits against Beckett in his career, all home runs.
Beckett did not allow more than two home runs in a game all last season. Going back to last season, he has given up nine in his last three starts.
“He made some good pitches at times. They were just on it,’’ Saltalamacchia said. “At times there were pitches that were all over the plate.’’
Detroit starter Doug Fister shut out the Red Sox for 3 2/3 innings before leaving the game because of a strained muscle on his left side. He was placed on the disabled list after the game.
Rookie Duane Below replaced Fister and got the victory with 2 1/3 scoreless innings. Five Detroit pitchers allowed seven hits, six of them singles, and walked two. The Sox never came close to scoring and struck out in six of their final nine at-bats.
The Red Sox are 12 for 64 (.188) and have struck out 18 times in two games.
“When you lose a game you can’t do nothing but come back and play the next day,’’ David Ortiz said. “You have to make better adjustments. It’s going to happen regardless. Everybody wants to try and do good.’’