Beckett gets on 'saddle', locks in vs. Mariners

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Beckett gets on 'saddle', locks in vs. Mariners

BOSTON The reports of Josh Becketts demise have been greatly exaggerated. At least, with the Seattle Mariners in town.

The Mariners offered little in the way of opposition to Beckett, who was coming off a disastrous outing in his previous start on Thursday when he lasted just 2 13 innings against the Indians and gave up seven runs.

That the Mariners are one of the worst-hitting teams in the majors -- hitting just .235 as a team, better than only Oaklands .218 in the American League meant little on this day. Becketts performance, demeanor, and pitching line were what was really important.

Tuesday afternoon at Fenway Park, he went seven scoreless and dominant -- innings, giving up four hits with two walks anda season-high nine strikeouts, to improve to 3-4, dropping his ERA a full run from 5.97 to 4.97.

Beckett set the tone from his opening pitch: a 93-mph fastball on a called strike to Mariners lead-off batter Dustin Ackley, who struck out on the fifth pitch, swinging at-an 88-mph changeup.Beckett needed just eight pitches (seven strikes) to get through the first inning.

He retired the side in order in the first three innings. Beckett struck out the side in order in the third, giving him four consecutive strikeouts. He struck out Mike Carp, swinging at a 92-mph fastball to lead off the third, giving him 1,044 career strikeouts with the Red Sox, passing Bruce Hurst for 6th on the all-time team list.

He just looked like he took control of the game, said manager Bobby Valentine. He stood out there and wanted everyone to know he was Josh Beckett, including the opposition. Threw strikes, had all of his pitches, worked quickly with his catcher, and mowed them down.

He had a great presence all week. David Ortiz whispered in my ear and said, Watch him pitch today, in the second inning. It was a 1-2-3 first. Ortiz saw it in the first inning. There was something there. He belongs on that hill. That's his saddle and he looked very comfortable today.

After the last week or so, this kind of performance was necessary if not for Beckett, then for his naysayers. Beckett had been excoriated in the last week or so in print, on the airwaves, and with the thunder of boos that rained down on him as he walked off the mound after his disastrous outing Thursday against the Indians at Fenway. That kind of noise is almost never heard at Fenway for a player wearing the home uniform.

But reports of a golf outing after a lat muscle ailment, after last seasons fried chicken-and-beer debacle, along with his performance against the Indians, only provided fuel for the raging fire.

Beckett, who turned 32 on Tuesday, didnt use this past week as a motivator, he said. He heard from family, friends, and other ballplayers who offered encouragement, which helped.

But he was just looking to pitch like he knows he can.

Not a whole lot you can do different, he said. You can't have too many of those starts where you start changing stuff up. You definitely want to make yourself as comfortable as possible. I tried to do the sameworkouts and everything like that.

His teammates, though, noticed the difference.

He was great, said Ortiz. The minute I saw him throw the first pitch I knew he was going to have a good game . . . It was good. We need that.

It was great, just what we were looking for, said catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who was working with Beckett for just the second time this season, and fourth time overall since the start of the 2011 season.

Thats Josh. He goes after guys, has some deception, good heater, makes his pitches a little bit. Its what we expect.

I think last start he missed location a little bit. Today he got back to getting location, going after guys and mixing his pitches, just attacking guys.

Asked how Becketts week might have affected the right-hander, Ortiz replied:

You guys, you need to take it easy, man, just to begin with. We are human here. We come and play the game. We try to do the right thing. But we got a personal life, too, you know, and were human just like everyone else.

But Beckett always give everything he has every time he goes out there. It doesnt matter if he has a bad day, good day, he always pump himself up.

Perhaps Beckett was motivated by the string of quality starts the four other pitchers in the rotation had put together. Becketts outing gave the Sox five consecutive quality starts for the first time this season and the first time since they had eight in a row May 22 29, 2011. Tim Wakefield, who was honored before todays game, began the streak last season, and Beckett had the last start in that streak.

You obviously want to keep your team in the game, Beckett said, but it is nice when everybody goes out there and strings together outings and some of them werent just quality starts, they were really good starts. Its nice to kind of keep that going.

And if he keeps that going, he will keep at bay those who are ready to write him off or ride him off.

Shaughnessy: Red Sox have a chance to flip this around

Shaughnessy: Red Sox have a chance to flip this around

Mike Felger and Dan Shaughnessy discuss the Boston Red Sox bouncing back from their slump with a win over the Tampa Bay Rays.

Quotes, notes and stars: Fourth inning 'a grind' for Porcello

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Quotes, notes and stars: Fourth inning 'a grind' for Porcello

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox' 8-2 win over Tampa Bay

 

QUOTES

"I can't say enough about the way our position players have continued to grind away. . . Tonight was just another example of that.'' - John Farrell.

"He's been everything that we could have hoped. You look to a starting pitcher to go out and be consistent every fifth day -- he's been a model of that for us.'' - Farrell on Rick Porcello.

"It's nice to come back with a statement game tonight. The past couple of week haven't been good for us, so it was nice to get back on the right track tonight.'' - Travis Shaw.

"Preventing them from scoring first was big and then limiting the big inning. The fourth inning was a grind. I dug myself a hole and had to find a way out of it.'' - Rick Porcello.

 

NOTES

* Rick Porcello became the first Red Sox starter to record a win since David Price beat Seattle on Jume 19.

* Porcello is unbeaten over his last eight starts, going 3-0 with five no-decisions.

* Porcello had gone 19 straight starts without allowing more than two walks, the longest such streak for a Red Sox starter since Curt Schilling went 33 in a row.

* The Red Sox snapped a three-game losing streak and are one of two teams (Cleveland is the other) to not have lost four straight this season.

* Boston has a major league-leading 22 games in which it has scored eight or more runs.

* The first six hitters in the Red Sox lineup were 11-for-24, while the bottom three were a combined 0-for-13.

* Travis Shaw's home run was measured at 449 feet, the second-longest homer by a Red Sox player this season.

* In one night, Travis Shaw had more RBI (five) than he had in his previous 27 games (four).

* David Ortiz tied Frank Thomas in career RBI (1,704); both are in 23rd place.

 

STARS

1) Travis Shaw

Shaw belted out three hits -- including his first homer in the month of June -- and knocked in five RBI, tying a career high.

2) Rick Porcello

In a perfect world, Porcello would have gone a little deeper, but kept the Rays off the scoreboard early and helped set the tone for the night.

3) Hanley Ramirez

Ramirez reached base five times with two hits -- both singles -- and three walks - one intentional - and seemed to be in the middle of every Red Sox rally.