Josh Beckett strong again for Red Sox
Despite being nearly perfect for the first six innings Saturday night against Tampa Bay, Josh Beckett professed not to care that his dominant outing failed to bring him his fifth win of the season.
A walkoff team victory, he pointed out, makes a no-decision much easier to take.
“That was awesome, that’s a better way to win anyway,’’ Beckett said, not long after Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit a pinch-hit, two-run home run in the ninth inning, lifting the Sox to a 3-2 win at Fenway Park. “If I get no-decisions the rest of my starts this year it’s not that big a deal if we win them all like that.’’
If Beckett continues to pitch like he did Saturday night, he’ll win his share of games. He produced his seventh quality start in nine outings - tops on the team - allowing four hits and two runs in seven innings. He didn’t walk a batter for the first time this season, and struck out five.
Through six innings Beckett had faced one batter more than the minimum, giving up only a third-inning single to Jose Molina and at one point retiring 11 straight. Like many of Beckett’s other starts, the keys to success were the same: Keep the ball down, take advantage of his defense, establish command of his offspeed pitches.
Done, done, and done.
“He was down in the zone, that was probably [most] important,’’ said Sox catcher Kelly Shoppach, who caught the game and added a seventh-inning double. “He had command of most of the at-bats by being ahead, so if you can do those things you got a chance to pitch deep into games and get some quick outs.’’
Beckett needed to be efficient, and in good form, since David Price was the opposing pitcher and stringing together just as many zeros. It was scoreless until the sixth inning, when the Sox finally scraped together a run.
The only time Beckett ran into trouble was the seventh, his final inning. He gave up singles to B.J. Upton, Matt Joyce, and Luke Scott, sandwiched around a sacrifice fly by Ben Zobrist. In a flash, the 1-0 lead he had been given had turned into a 2-1 deficit, which is how it would stay until the bottom of the ninth.
By then Beckett was gone, but he had done enough to give his team a chance.
“His ball was moving in and out, had really good location,’’ manager Bobby Valentine said. “Really good competitiveness, he was willing a lot of those outs. He looks great out on the mound right now.’’
In his past three starts - all Sox wins - Beckett has combined to pitch 21 2/3 innings, giving up 15 hits and three runs for a 1.28 ERA. He’s allowed three runs or fewer in seven of his nine starts.
He still displayed some of his surly side, even in victory. With a questioner noting that he’s now had three strong starts in a row, Beckett interjected.
“How many bad starts did I have in a row, one?’’ he said. “How many bad ones in a row did I have, one? Can’t have one bad start in a row? [Bleeping] tough crowd.
“I feel good. I lived down in the zone today and it worked out. Got my offspeed pitches going, I got a lot of early contact with those, hit balls at guys until the seventh inning, then the two ground-ball hits, just perfectly placed.’’
The way Price was pitching - and knowing that Rays closer Fernando Rodney (15 for 15 in save opportunities) was waiting to face the Sox in the ninth inning - it looked like Beckett might be a hard-luck loser.
Instead, he didn’t factor into the decision, at least according to the box score. Beckett seemed just fine with that.