It was a tale of two pitchers at Fenway -- the ace of Red Sox past, Pedro Martinez, and the possible ace of Red Sox future, Josh Beckett.
Sox fans started the game by acknowledging Pedro's past accomplishments, but it was Beckett's performance that earned him the loudest ovation of the night after he left with two outs in the eighth inning. While Pedro was getting pounded by his former mates (eight runs, six earned, on seven hits in three innings), Beckett, who doffed his cap to the Fenway crowd as he exited, blew away the New York Mets. The righthander allowed two runs on five hits and struck out seven, leading Boston to its 11th straight win, a 10-2 shellacking of the National East Division leaders.
Sox manager Terry Francona said Beckett thrived on the big stage and that shouldn't come as a surprise. Game 6 of the 2003 World Series ring a bell to anyone?
"I think Josh has shown the ability at a young age that the stage isn't too big," said Francona. "He used it to his advantage. He didn't come out of his delivery all night and probably used the adrenaline to his advantage."
The only blemishes on Beckett's record were a pair of solo home runs he surrendered to Carlos Delgado and Jose Valentin.
Beckett demurred when asked if he'd stolen the show -- and the fans --from Pedro.
"They went more nuts for Pedro than they did for me," he said. "I just go out there and try to do my job and help this team win. I was fortunate to get some big offense. On this little run we've put together it seems like every night we're scoring 7, 8, 9 runs and 12 hits. Those guys are unbelievable."
Beckett has now won his last three starts -- all against NL East opponents -- allowing just two runs in each start. That's probably not a coincidence, as even Beckett admitted that pitching in the AL is a more taxing task than hurling in the Senior Circuit.
"It really makes a difference not having the nine-hole in there. A lot of National League teams have a guy that has a specific thing that he does well. Some of them run well, some of them play defense well, stuff like that, but in the American League, it's one through nine. You have some really good hitters hitting eighth and ninth for American League clubs."
In case Pedro Martinez forgot that, he rediscovered it last night, when Sox shortstop Alex Gonzalez, Boston's No. 9 hitter, tagged him for a two-run homer in the third to put the Sox up 8-0.
"He's still a great pitcher," said Kevin Youkilis. "Today we just got the best of him."
And on the mound the Sox got the best out of Beckett.
Some post-game tidbits:
-- The Red Sox tied the American League by playing their 15th straight errorless game, equaling the mark set by the Texas Rangers from Aug. 4-19 of 1996.
-- The 10 runs the Sox scored tonight tied the most Boston has ever scored against the Mets. They scored 10 against New York at Shea Stadium on June 15, 1997.
-- The Red Sox 11 straight wins have all come in interleague play. Boston is now just one win shy of tying the major league record for consecutive interleague victories, which is shared by the New York Yankees (2003-04) and .... the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. The D-Rays won 12 straight in interleague play in 2004.