Has anything changed with Josh Beckett?

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Has anything changed with Josh Beckett?

So, where do you stand on Josh Beckett today?

Or better, where do you stand on where the Sox should stand?

You still think they should trade him? Did you ever?

Are you sick of all these questions?

OK, me too. I feel like a five-year old who just caught two zebras mating at the zoo. Mommy, what was that? What were they doing? What were those noises? Is that where I came from? Whats going on?!

So heres the deal: In the two starts since his disaster against the Indians, Josh Becketts thrown 14.2 innings and given up only one earned run. Hes struck out 14, while walking only four and setting a new Guinness Record for Worlds Longest Single. Make no mistake, Becketts been great, and not necessarily in the way were accustomed. Hes not blowing guys away with barely-visible fastballs; hes confusing them with guile and strategery. Hes somewhat ironically using the magic of maturity to transform himself on the mound and give us every reason to believe that (if he wants to) Beckett can remain strong, to quite strong for the extent of his contract and beyond. Sure, it's helped that his two dominant performances came against the Mariners (who have a team batting average of .235) and the Phillies (whose starting pitcher boasted the second best average in the line-up) but hey, wins are wins. And Beckett's run off two straight.

As a result, after eight months of demanding his head, the tune has slightly changed. The cries to ship Beckett out of town have softened, and are now drowned out by multiple variations of the same sarcastic question: "So, who wants to trade him now!? LOLZ"

Translation: How does it make sense for a team that's struggled miserably with their starting pitching to trade their best pitcher?

Answer: Because the motivation behind trading Beckett was never a matter of performance. Sure, his struggles may have brought the fan base to its wits end, but in reality, wanting to trade Beckett because (on top of everything else) he was a suddenly pathetic pitcher didn't make sense. Can you imagine if Ben Cherington had actually tried to shop Beckett after that Cleveland start?

Hey, GM X, its Ben. Listen, weve got this ornery, old veteran whos owed 47M over the next two and half years, any interest? Oh and by the way, he cant get anyone out.

They'd have had a hard time giving Beckett away. But in the eyes of many folks in Boston, giving him away would have been OK. With Beckett, it was never about what the Sox were getting back, and it wasn't about what he was doing on the field

It was about changing the culture.

It was about identifying the sour batch of milk that was stinking up the clubhouse and tossing it out in the street. It was about turning the page. Exorcising the demons. Addition by subtraction. Yada yada yada. (I mentioned the bisque).

So, ask yourself: Do two solid starts against two average lineups really change that?

I don't see how. In fact, if you wanted to trade Josh Beckett before, after these last two outings, that desire should only increase. Now you can get rid the ugly attitude we can all agree that he's the same guy, right? That 14 innings aren't going to change 11 years? and maybe even get something in return. If you were cool with addition by subtraction, then aren't you on board with addition by subtraction and addition? (Eat your heart out, John Nash). Yes, you are. You have to be. But of course, it doesn't really matter.

We all know Beckett's not going anywhere. For the Sox to trade No. 19, they'd have to admit that there's a problem, and with Lucky Larry running the show, that's not happening. Not now. Not ever. But for now, at least that problem is doing a littlea lot of bit of good.

Even if he's the same unlikable guy off the field, Beckett's returned to being the same reliable arm on the field. Of course, that "good" can disappear just as quickly as it arrived. The truth is that from now until the end of his time in Boston, Beckett will only be as good as his last start. We'll go through multiple stages of love, hate, tolerance and ambivalence. The Josh Beckett Experience will remain anything but stable.

But today, it's OK. Today, we can sit back and feel comfortable with him taking the mound every five days, and in the process, not care quite as much about how he's spending the other four.

And after eight months of drama and distraction, we'll take it.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Red Sox-Indians ALDS matchup becoming increasingly likely

Red Sox-Indians ALDS matchup becoming increasingly likely

BOSTON - The Red Sox knew they'd be in the playoffs last weekend when they clinched a postseason berth for the first time since 2013.

On Wednesday, they became division champs and knew they'd avoided the dreaded wild-card game.

ANALYSIS: Nick Friar looks at potential Red Sox-Indians matchup

They still don't know their first-round opponent, though it's becoming increasingly likely that it will be the Cleveland Indians.

Here's why: the Red Sox' loss to the Yankees on Thursday night leaves them with a 92-67 record with three games remaining, the second-best mark -- for now -- among the three A.L. division winners.

The Texas Rangers, at 94-65, retain the best record, with the Indians, at 91-67, a half-game behind the Sox.

The team with the best record of the three will enter the playoffs as the No. 1 seed, and will be matched against the winner of Tuesday's A.L. wild-card matchup.

To finish with the A.L.'s best record and host the wild-card winner, the Red Sox essentially need to sweep the Toronto Blue Jays on the final weekend and hope that the Rangers get swept by Tampa Bay.

That's because a tie between the Red Sox and Rangers in the standings would make the Rangers the top seed by virtue of the second tie-breaker: intra-division play.

(The first tie-breaker is head-to-head play; the Sox and Rangers split the season series, sending them to the second tie-breaker).

In other words, the Rangers have a magic number of one to clinch the best record in the A.L. and gain home-field advantage throughout the postseason. One more Red Sox loss or one more Rangers win would get the Rangers locked into the top spot.

Again, barring a sweep by the Sox and the Rangers getting swept, a matchup in the Division Series with Cleveland seems almost inevitable.

What's not known is where that series will begin, and here's where it gets tricky.

Because the Indians and Detroit Tigers were rained out Thursday, the Tribe will have played only 161 games by the time the regular season ends early Sunday evening.

That could force the Indians and Tigers to play a makeup game on Monday, since the game could have playoff seeding implications for the Indians and Tigers. Detroit is still in the running for the A.L. wild card spot, currently a game-and-a-half behind the Orioles and Jays.

Since the Red Sox won the season series against the Indians 4-2, the Sox can clinch home field by winning two-of-three games from Toronto this weekend.

Should the Sox win two from the Jays, it would wipe out the need for Monday's makeup -- at least as far as the Indians are concerned. It's possible that it would still need to be played to determine the one of the wild card spots.

No matter who wins home field in a likely Red Sox-Indians matchup, the Division Series between the two will start with games next Thursday and Friday. After a travel day, the series would resume Sunday and Monday, Oct. 9-10.

Should the Sox win home field and host the first two games, Game 3 would be played Sunday Oct. 9 in Cleveland -- on the same day and in the same city where Tom Brady will make his return to the Patriots.