I donít know if, following last nightís 4-3 Red Sox loss to the Indians, weíre supposed to be concerned about Josh Beckett, but hereís some relief for you this morning anyhow:
Last September, the month before he took the baseball postseason by storm and led the Red Sox to their second World Series title of the decade, Beckett was running on all cylinders, 4-1 with a 3.18 ERA. He allowed seven runs total in his first 28 innings of the month before getting smacked around a bit in his final start of the season, a 5-4 loss to the Twins on Sept. 27.
One year later, the Red Sox October ace has just one win in his last five starts, has watched his season ERA balloon back over four (4.03) after allowing four runs in last nightís party-on-hold defeat, and isnít in the Cy Young discussion. But, on the whole, Beckett has arguably been even better this time around in his September tuneup for the postseason, giving up just six earned runs over 25 innings, to the tune of a 2.16 ERA.
Itís no coincidence that September has historically been his best month of the regular season. When the weeks tick by in an explosion of cool evenings, Beckettís veins match the atmosphere while his fiery presence heats up the night, mentally and physically preparing himself for the stage on which he has no equal in the modern game. Heís 18-8, with a 2.86 ERA over his career in the month of September, his best numbers by far - aside from the postseason, when heís a nifty 6-2 with a 1.73 ERA.
In 2003, the year he led the Marlins to the title, he was 3-1 with a 2.08 ERA in September.
If last night was indeed his final meaningful start of the regular season -- depending on how close the Sox get to the Rays in the final weekend -- it certainly wasnít the best precursor to whatís to come just over a week from now, nor is the entire package, a 12-10 mark that guarantees him his lowest win total since 2004. But July, when Beckett lost three of five decisions, seems a long time ago, and that eight-run stinker against the Blue Jays last month a distant memory when you study how he prepares for the most important time of his season.
That six-inning, 10-hit, five-run outing last year against the Twins in his final regular season start didn't seem a fitting finish to his 2007 season either, a loss that very well may have cost him the Cy Young Award to CC Sabathia. And all he did from there was go out and toss a complete-game shutout in his ALDS start against the Angels, en route to a 4-0 October.
So, who exactly is uneasy after last night, then?
Besides the Angels, of course.