If the reeling Red Sox have one thing going for them, itís that Josh Beckett will start on the mound tonight against the Yankees. The Sox are suddenly crumbling, and no player is more capable of patching things together for one night than Beckett, the pitcher Mark Teixeira last night called ďthe best pitcher in the American League right now.Ē
At a time when nothing is assured for the Red Sox, Beckett should provide a sturdy force. Since May 1, Beckettís ERA is 2.28, the best in American League over that span. Heís coming off seven shutout innings in Baltimore.
Tonight gets more difficult, of course. Heíll face, as Terry Francona said last night, ďan unforgiving lineup in an unforgiving park.Ē In his first start at Yankee Stadium this season, back on May 5, Beckett grinded for a win. He allowed 10 hits, a walk, and a home run, but kept the damage to three runs over six innings. At Fenway Park against the Yankees on June 9, Beckett one-hit the Yanks over six shutout innings as the Sox cruised to a win.
Yankee Stadium devours pitchers who struggle against lefties, and Beckett has had success against them this season. Heís better against righties, but lefties have hit .252 and slugged .364 off of Beckett this season. His best attribute facing lefties, seemingly, is that he wonít give in. In 305 at-bats against lefties, Beckett has allowed five home runs, the same number heís surrendered to righthanders in 230 at-bats.
New Yorkís lineup presents a few tough outs for Beckett. Robinson Cano is hitting .342 and slugging .605 against Beckett in 38 career at-bats, and Melky Cabrera is batting .343 in 35 career at-bats against Beckett. Alex Rodriguez is 11 for 36 (.306) with three doubles and a home run.
Beckettís dominance amid his teamís floundering raises another point -- if the Red Sox canít straighten out their other issues, will they waste Beckettís season? Heís having perhaps the best year of his career, almost identical to 2007, when he finished second in the Cy Young voting. Compare:
Beckett is at his best. The Red Sox are at their worst. Can Beckett keep the former going and change the latter?