Who says Josh Beckett has lost a little off his fastball?
Despite reports based upon statistical studies detailing the decline of his velocity from 94.7 miles per hour his season year with the Red Sox in 2006 to 91.5 this season, Beckett proved he still had a little gas left in his tank by celebrating his 32d birthday with a 5-0 victory over the Seattle Mariners Tuesday at Fenway Park.
The object of much derision for playing golf, eating fried chicken and drinking beer, the defiant righthander seemed to work his way into the good graces of an angry Red Sox Nation – if only for a day – after he blanked the Mariners over seven innings, allowing four hits and two walks while striking out a season-high nine batters, six on fastballs that topped out at 93 m.p.h.
Beckett’s lights-out performance, which helped him improve to 3-4 and lower his earned run average to 4.97, came on the heels of Jon Lester’s complete-game victory Monday. It kept in line with a string of four consecutive command performances by the starting rotation, enabling the Sox (17-19) to wrap up this six-game home stand with a five-game winning streak.
On a day a crowd of 37,292 turned out in soggy conditions to honor former knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, Beckett had his best performance of the season. He was perfect for the first three innings, striking out six batters, including the side in the third. He allowed only one runner to reach third when Ichiro Suzuki reached on an infield single to short, then stole second and third.
Dustin Ackley broke up Beckett’s bid for perfection when he reached on an infield dribbler that eluded first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, who attempted to make a backhanded flip with his glove to Beckett, who was covering the bag.
Beckett then struck out John Jaso before allowing Suzuki to reach on a single to center. He got out of the inning by inducing Jesus Montero to fly to left and Kyle Seager to ground to second.
David Ortiz, who went 2 for 3, with two runs, gave Beckett a 1-0 lead in the third when he belted a homer to right off Seattle starter Blake Beavan (1-4, 4.58).
The Sox tacked on two more against Beavan in the fourth when Cody Ross drew a walk with one out and went to third on Daniel Nava’s sharply-struck single to right. Mike Aviles, who went 2 for 4 with a pair of doubles, ripped an RBI double to center to score Ross, making it 2-0.
Ryan Sweeney came up and drove in Nava from third with his run-scoring ground out to second.
Ortiz scored a fourth run on the strangest of trips around the bases when he reached on a bunt single down the third-base line against an overshifted infield, reached second safely after Mariners shortstop Munenori Kawasaki came off the bag before making the force, and went to third on a wild pitch by reliever Charlie Furbush.
Will Middlebrooks scored Ortiz with his 14th RBI of the season on a single to left.
The Red Sox added a fifth run in the eight when Aviles doubled to left to score Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who reached on a leadoff double against Steve Delabar, the second of three Seattle relievers.