BOSTON -- Returningfrom a dismal road trip -- on which theywere able to win just two of seven from Seattle and Oakland, teams withsub-.500 records to face the Yankees, with the American Leagues best record,the Red Sox needed Josh Beckett, their erstwhile ace, to prove that he couldagain take on that mantle.
They got anything but in the first inning.
Beckett faced nine batters and gave up five runs, on four hits, a hit batter, a walk, and two sacrifice flies, throwing 33 pitches, just 15 strikes, in the inning. It was the first time he had allowed five runs in an inning since Aug. 13, 2011, at Seattle. He walked in the first run of the game, the first time he gave up a run on a walk since April 18, 2009, when he walked Baltimores Nick Markakis in the fifth inning.
Derek Jeter hit Becketts first pitch of the game for a single to center field. With just seven pitches, Beckett loaded the bases with no outs. He didnt get a called strike until the 21st pitch, and it was the first strike that wasnt hit safely or fouled off. On a 1-and-2 count to Yankees No. 8 hitter Eric Chavez, with his 26th pitch, it was the first time Beckett had been ahead in a count.
In all, Beckett went five innings, giving up six runs on eight hits and two walks with five strikeouts, and a hit batter. He threw 90 pitches, 49 strikes, as his ERA rose from 4.06 to 4.13.
It was tough, Beckett said. I was battling myself, especially in that first inning. I kind of sped up my mechanics there in the middle innings especially out of the windup it made a difference. The stretch was pretty tough.
Beckett gave up a run in the second, but held the Yankees scoreless over his last three innings. Surprisingly, he left with the lead, in line for the win, as the Sox batters got to Yankees starter Hiroki Kuroda, whose performance was just as futile as Becketts. Staked to a five-run lead in the first, he gave it all back in the bottom of the inning.
Becketts potential win, though, was wiped out when the bullpen faltered, keeping the right-handers record at 4-7.
Beckett appeared to be a completely different pitcher in the third and fourth than he was in the first two innings. He faced the minimum number of batters in the third and fourth. Including the final out of the second, he struck out four straight batters, two on curveballs, two on 93-mph fastballs.
I think I got to locate some balls, he said, of adjustments he made. The balls I didn't locate, they hit the gaps. The first inning that didn't seem like that was the way it was going.
Beckett and catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia had several lengthy discussions on the mound.
I was just thinking to get down in the zone, Beckett said. I was really struggling. I think in the first inning I just wanted to throw a strike, I didn't care where they hit it. I was just really battling myself with that. I think the second inning it was better, I kind of spread things out. I was having a hard time getting my arm up.
He faltered in the fifth, giving up a lead-off single to Alex Rodriguez before striking out Robinson Cano. After Rodriguez stole second, Beckett walked Mark Teixeira, setting up a double steal with Nick Swisher batting. A nifty play by Nick Punto at second base, and Saltalamacchia, to cut down Rodriguez attempting to score on Nick Swishers one-hop liner prevented a run. Raul Ibanez flied out to Ryan Kalish in center to end the inning.
But, that was as far as Beckett would go. With a doubleheader Saturday, manager Bobby Valentine had hoped to get more out of Beckett.
Well, five innings was good but it could have been a lot worse, Valentine said. But six innings would have been perfect and I just didnt see him having it in him.
It was the first time Beckett faced the Yankees this season. In 2011, he went 4-0 with a 1.85 ERA and 38 strikeouts in five starts against New York. He has made 27 starts in his career against the Yankees, more than any other team. Beckett was asked if perhaps the familiarity is giving the Yankees an edge.
No, he said. I mean you got to make pitches against them. Theyre good. Everybody talks about rival this, rival that. It's not that. It's just that both these teams have been really good for a long time so it automatically plays itself up like that. Theyre a good team. we're a good team. They've been a good team for a long time. we've been a good team for a long time. You just got to make pitches. Today was one of those nights where it was warm and balls were flying, so it makes it even more important to make pitches.