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Early inning struggles got Beckett again

Posted by Alex Prewitt  July 20, 2012 11:10 PM

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Bad luck in the first morphed into a baffling evening for Josh Beckett, who took the 6-1 loss to Toronto on Friday night at Fenway.

At one point, he retired eight straight Blue Jays. But the 4-0 hole he put the Sox in after two innings, a painful refrain for Beckett this season, became far too much to manage.

Despite Cody Ross's three-run walk-off homer Thursday against the White Sox, Boston had been held scoreless for eight innings by rookie Jose Quintana, and was only given a fighting chance because of Clay Buchholz's eight innings of one-run ball.

There was no such saving grace to be found in the series opener. Not with Beckett walking Anthony Gose in the second then giving up a two-run double to Colby Rasmus. Not with a close play at the plate in the first that scored Rasmus, who had reached after golfing a triple over Ross's head in right field.

Will Middlebrooks came up firing on Edwin Encarnacion's grounder. Kelly Shoppach appeared to block the plate. Umpire Sam Holbrook thought otherwise.

"I thought Will made an aggressive play that you like to see from guys," Beckett said. "Didn't end up working out in our favor."

Said Shoppach: "I was sitting on top of the plate, so I don't know how he got his hand in there, but the umpire said he got his hand in there. That's about it. I don't see how he got there, but he said he saw it, called him safe."

The Blue Jays then poked two seeing-eye singles to score Encarnacion.

"Shoot, we were playing for a double-play ball there, and they hit two ground balls in the hole," Shoppach said. "That's a little bit of bad luck. [Beckett] made some bad pitches they capitalized on in the second. He kept us in the ballgame after those first couple of innings, really did a good job after that. We just couldn't get anything going offensively."

Aaron Laffey spun his second straight shutout against the Sox after throwing six scoreless innings June 26. Boston had eight singles off him on Friday, but never strung anything together. In the third, Mike Aviles and Jacoby Ellsbury both singled, but Carl Crawford and Dustin Pedroia both flew out to right. In the seventh, Middlebrooks and Shoppach each reached on singles, but Aviles struck out looking, Pedro Ciriaco bounced into a fielder's choice, and Ellsbury popped out in foul territory.

Ready for this stat? Laffey became the second pitcher with multiple scoreless outings in the same season of at least six innings on the road against the Sox since 1980, and the first lefty to do so since 1931.

"He threw a lot of strikes and we hit a lot of balls at their players," manager Bobby Valentine said. "It was one of those nights where we couldnít find the hole and a couple of outfielders made good plays and infielders made good plays when we hit the ball hard. Thatís what happens sometimes, it just turns around on you like that."

As far as Beckett goes, he pushed his first-inning ERA to 10.69 this season. He settled down after the second, retiring eight straight at one point and finishing with seven strikeouts. He exited after six innings, though Valentine said he could have gone longer.

"I don't know, I can't say that I'm looking at a whole lot of positives from that outing," said Beckett, who gave up his fifth run in the fifth inning when Encarnacion reached second on a Middlebrooks throwing error and Lind followed it up with an RBI single. "I just got burned whenever I didn't make pitches.

"Obviously, the results are not where you want them to be. But you have to keep going out there."

Valentine spoke before the game about not believing in game-to-game momentum, about the excitement of Thursday night's wild win, which allowed the Sox to take three of four from AL Central-leading Chicago, not carrying over into the next series. His words proved prophetic.

"No, that's baseball," Shoppach said. "Euphoria's over when you went to bed last night. We don't have time to celebrate last night. We have a new team coming here, a new day, new challenges for today. I think momentum plays over the course of a season, but what you did last night is not going to do anything for you today."

Other assorted postgame notes:

  • The Sox' lone run came in the ninth when Middlebrooks singled and moved up on a wild pitch, Daniel Nava walked, and Mike Aviles reached on an RBI fielder's choice. But Jarrod Saltalamacchia, pinch-hitting for Ciriaco, struck out to end the game.
  • Boston has allowed at least one run in the first inning in 16 of its past 19 games at home since June 10. The Sox's first-inning ERA is 6.70, compared to 3.80 the rest of the way.
  • Adrian Gonzalez went hitless after multi-hit outings in the five games since the All-Star break.
  • Rasmus's first-inning double snapped an 0 for 13 drought, his longest since 2010.
  • Aaron Cook takes the mound tomorrow night to try to turn things around. Thanks for hanging around tonight, and for all the comments. See you then.

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