Beckett admits bad starts are 'killing the bullpen'

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Beckett admits bad starts are 'killing the bullpen'

BOSTON Give Josh Beckett this: He wont apologize and he wont back down.

Beckett lasted just 2 13 innings Thursday night as the Indians pounded him for seven runs on seven hits including two home runs. His record fell to 24 while his ERA jumped to 5.97. It was the second time in his six starts this season he has given up seven earned runs. Prior to this season he had not given up seven runs in 39 straight starts since August 13, 2010.

It was his shortest start since going 2 13 innings on August 17, 2008, when he gave up eight runs to the Blue Jays.

The Sox have now lost three straight, and eight of nine in May. They fall to 411 at home this season, losing 11 of their last 12 since April 16.

All of which make the erstwhile aces decision to play golf on the teams May 3 off-day highly questionable. Valentine had announced on May 2 that Beckett would be skipped in his May 5 start against the Orioles because of a sore right lat muscle.

Beckett, though, in true Beckett fashion, was not going to apologize for his choice of off-day ventures.

No, he said. I spend my off days the way I want to spend them.

Asked if there were any lingering physical issues, Beckett replied:

I feel pretty good.

Beckett started off well enough. He struck out Indians lead-off batter Johnny Damon on a curveball, then gave up a two-out ground-rule double to Asdrubal Cabrera, who stole third. Beckett got Travis Hafner to ground out, ending the inning.

Beckett quickly ran into trouble in the second. With one out, Shin-Soo Choo walked, took third on Michael Brantley's double and scored on Casey Kotchman's sacrifice fly. Jack Hannahan's third home run of the season put the Indians up 30.

The Tribe delivered the knock-out punch in the third. Jason Kipnis led off with his sixth home run of the season. Cabrera singled and Hafner walked before Carlos Santana flied out. Choo's double scored Cabrera, and Michael Brantley's second double in as many innings scored Hafner and Choo, ending Beckett's outing. Left-hander Andrew Miller entered and retired the next two batters to end the inning.

He started off really good, throwing strikes and kept the ball down the first inning, said Valentine. Everything seemed to be really good. Maybe it was just a little too much time off. Two strikes he wasnt executing his pitches, had a split left up, curve ball left up and they got whacked.

Before the game, Valentine downplayed Becketts golf outing.

"I've never seen a pitcher get hurt playing golf," Valentine said pregame. "Again, I didn't think he was injured when he was skipped."

After the game, Valentine was asked if Becketts layoff he hadnt pitched an April 29 loss to the White Sox in Chicago might be the reason for Becketts performance.

Im not sure if thats the case, Valentine said. It was the two-strike pitches that it seemed werent being executed. The other ones were fine. A little feel maybe.

No, Beckett said when asked if the layoff affected him. I threw a bullpen three days ago. I felt good in it, made some minor adjustments. Everything was flat. Same speed. You can't throw balls down the middle of the plate.

I thought everything, sinker was more flat moving instead of having depth. Cutter same thing. Instead of having depth, everything was moving kind of flat.

He had no physical issues, he said.

I feel pretty good.

Asked what impact the golf outing or the resulting brouhaha had on him or his preparation, Beckett was quick to reply:

None. None.

Asked if he had any regrets, Beckett said:

My off days my off day.

But as he left the field, with his team on its way to a record of 1219, the Fenway crowd voiced their displeasure, raining a chorus of boos usually reserved for opposing players, on him.

I think it was directed at me, he said. I pitched like expletive. Thats what happens. Smart fans.

Are they smart enough to question his decisions?

Not on my off day, he said.

We get 18 off days a year. I think we deserve a little bit of time to ourselves.

With Becketts outing, Sox starting pitchers have a combined ERA of 6.06, averaging 5 23 innings per start. Beckett himself is averaging just over 5 23 innings in his six starts.

Is killing the bullpen, Beckett said. The bullpen did an unbelievable job tonight five relievers went 6 23 innings, giving up one run. You cant expect those guys to go out there and continue to do that. You can't pitch every night. You can't do it. I thought our position players played good defense today. A lot of the balls they hit off me were too hard. You can't catch those.

If good pitching, like good hitting, is contagious, its got to start somewhere.

Somebodys got to start that though, he said.

I dont know. For me I know today was a lot like five starts ago. Just everythings flat, everythings in the middle and some of the other guys have started turning the corner.

So, what will he work on before his next start?

I have to get my fingers back on top of the ball, he said. Creating at least angle, if you dont have the depth on your pitches.

Well, thats something, anyway.

Felger: Crazy can be good, but Sale needs to harness it

Felger: Crazy can be good, but Sale needs to harness it

Chris Sale brings with him to Boston some attitude. He also brings a measure of defiance and, perhaps, a little bit of crazy.

All of which the Red Sox starting staff just may need. And if Sale pitches as he has for much of the past five years, he'll probably be celebrated for it.

I still wonder how it will all play here, especially if he underachieves.

What would we do to him locally if he refused to pitch because he didn't like a certain kind of uniform variation the team was going with? What would we say if he not only refused to pitch, but took a knife to his teammates' uniforms and the team had to scrap the promotion? Sale did exactly that in Chicago last year, after which he threw his manager under the bus for not standing by his players and attacked the team for putting business ahead of winning.

All because he didn't want to wear an untucked jersey?

"(The White Sox throwback uniforms) are uncomfortable and unorthodox,'' said Sale at the time. "I didn't want to go out there and not be at the top of my game in every aspect that I need to be in. Not only that, but I didn't want anything to alter my mechanics. ... There's a lot of different things that went into it.''

Wearing a throwback jersey would alter his mechanics? Was that a joke? It's hard to imagine he would get away with that in Boston.

Ditto for his support of Adam LaRoche and his involvement of that goofy story last March.
 
LaRoche, you'll remember, retired when the White Sox had the nerve to tell him that his 14-year-old son could not spend as much time around the team as he had grown accustomed to. Sale responded by pitching a fit.

“We got bald-face lied to by someone we’re supposed to be able to trust,'' said Sale of team president Kenny Williams. ``You can’t come tell the players it was the coaches and then tell the coaches it was the players, and then come in and say something completely different. If we’re all here to win a championship, this kind of stuff doesn’t happen.”

On what planet does allowing a 14-year-old kid in a clubhouse have anything to do with winning a title? In what universe does a throwback jersey have anything to do with mechanics? If David Price had said things that stupid last year, he'd still be hearing about it. And it won't be any different for Sale.

Thankfully, Sale's defiance and feistiness extends to the mound. Sale isn't afraid to pitch inside and protect his teammates, leading the American League in hit batsmen each of the last two years. He doesn't back down and loves a fight. And while that makes him sound a little goofy off the field, it should play well on it.

In the meantime, the Sox better hope he likes those red alternate jerseys they wear on Fridays.

E-mail Felger at mfelger@comcastsportsnet.com. Listen to Felger and Mazz weekdays, 2-6 p.m. on 98.5 FM. The simulcast appears daily on CSN.

Know Thine Enemy: A complete breakdown of the Ravens

Know Thine Enemy: A complete breakdown of the Ravens

After a 3-0 start, the Ravens dropped a 28-27 decision to the Raiders in Baltimore. That started a four-game skid for Baltimore which included back-to-back losses at the Jets and Giants. But they got back on track against the Steelers and have won four out of five with their only being to the Cowboys. It’s hard to get a clean read on who they really are. 

They had narrow, early-season wins over crap teams like Cleveland and Jacksonville. They had a narrow loss to an outstanding Raiders team and were close with the Cowboys but got run over late with Dallas scoring on its last five possessions. They are coming off their most impressive team win, a 38-6 triumph over the Dolphins. 

This game is a big one in the AFC race not just because it’s a divisional leader but also because it will be a common game between the Patriots and Raiders. The Raiders already beat Baltimore. 

The Pats need to keep pace in a tiebreaker they currently trail. Weird schedule quirk? The Ravens have had only one road game that required a long commute since September. That was the game at Dallas. They just played six of their last nine and four of their last five at home.

LAST 5

Ravens 21, Steelers 14
Ravens 28, Browns 7
At Cowboys 27, Ravens 17
Ravens 19, Bengals 14
Ravens 38, Dolphins 6

OFFENSIVE STATS TO CHEW ON

More than half of Joe Flacco’s 323 completions have gone to three players: tight end Dennis Pitta (61 catches), wide receiver Mike Wallace (57) and wide receiver Steve Smith (54). Those players are 31, 30 and 37 respectively so it’s a veteran group.
Flacco is 114 of 159 (72 percent) with nine touchdowns and three picks in Baltimore’s last four games. He has 15 TDs and 11 picks this season.

The Ravens don’t run it much: 502 pass attempts, 287 rushing attempts. Terrence West and Kenneth Dixon are the lead backs. West has carried more than 15 times in a game on three occasions this season.

Rookie left tackle Ronnie Stanley has been playing very well as has the rest of the Ravens offensive line in recent weeks. Still, Baltimore is just at 34.1 on third down conversions.

DEFENSIVE STATS TO CHEW ON

The Ravens have allowed 207 points this season, tied with the Patriots for lowest in the AFC and just behind Seattle (194) overall.
Baltimore’s allowing just 33.3 percent conversions on third down and only 3.4 yards per carry.

Opposing quarterbacks are completing 64.1 percent of their passes and have 21 touchdown passes and 14 picks against the Ravens defense. Ten of the Ravens 14 picks came against the Browns, Jaguars and in last week’s rout of Miami.
 
WHERE ARE THEIR HEADS AT

"I just think they've got a great team. They've got Tom Brady. They've been the best team in the conference, and it's going to be our toughest challenge of the year." – John Harbaugh, Ravens coach, on Monday night’s matchup