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:
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.