Josh Beckett, the Game 2 starter, was skipped in what would have been his penultimate start this month, the victim of back spasms. It brought back memories from last year, when a serious oblique strain robbed him of any chance to be dominant and made it difficult for him even to compete. This year, though, is different than last year.
"There's no issues phyiscally at all," Beckett said. "I'm looking forward to going out there and doing what I'm supposed to do."
In his final start of the season, Beckett allowed the Cleveland Indians four runs in the first two innings. He lasted five innings and surrendered seven hits. The problems of his outing owed to rust, Terry Francona said, not health.
"He's ready to go," Francona said. "No problems. I think we handled it like we needed to. We needed to have him miss a start, knowing that he would be a little rusty, but I think we did the right thing."
The importance of a healthy Beckett in the postseason is obvious. Before he endured last year's playoffs, Beckett was 6-2 with a 1.73 ERA in the postseason. Last fall, the 2003 World Series MVP did not last more than five innings in any of his three starts, posting an 8.79 ERA as the Sox lost two of his starts. Now that he is healthy again, Beckett has a chance to return his formerly untouchable playoff self.
"I think the focus is going to be there," Beckett said. "I think the extra adrenaline helps that. So I think everybody is a little more locked in the postseason."
Even though he is healthy, Beckett will not be the opening starter, passing the title to Jon Lester. He was asked how he "digested" the decision.
"There was no digestion," Beckett said. "I don't make those decisions. That would be a great question for Tito, maybe."