Momentum lost in Beckett's early struggles

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Momentum lost in Beckett's early struggles

BOSTON -- Before Friday night's game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park, Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said that he doesn't believe in momentum.

And was he ever right.

The old phrase in baseball, with regards to momentum, is simple. It's as good as the next day's starting pitcher.

Josh Beckett took the hill on Friday night, trying to keep Boston's two-game win streak alive following back-to-back solid one-run outings from Felix Doubront and Clay Buchholz.

And spirits were riding high entering Beckett's 16th start of the season, thanks in part to Cody Ross' ninth-inning walk-off home run the night before.

"I don't believe in momentum," said Valentine before Friday's game against the Blue Jays. "I mean, I think that you could have momentum in a game and in an inning, but I don't think yesterday necessarily carries over, other than you have a good feeling when the game starts."

Even that would be a stretch, mainly because of Beckett's brutal 10.20 first-inning ERA this season.

But Beckett struck out Toronto lead-off man Anthony Gose to begin the game. And it looked like things would be different in this first inning.

Then Colby Rasmus drove a ball over Cody Ross' head in right field for a one-out triple. And in the next at-bat, Edwin Encarnacion grounded to third, and Will Middlebrooks decided to try and throw Rasmus out with a tag at home.

The throw was in time, the tag seemed good, but the ump called him safe, and the Blue Jays led 1-0. An Adam Lind single and then a J.P. Arencibia single scored another Toronto run, and it was more of the same for Beckett in the first.

"I thought the first inning, I made decent pitches," said Beckett, who also defended Middlebrooks' aggressiveness on his throw to the plate. "The second inning was the inning where things got away from me."

Yunel Escobar led off the top of the second with a double, and then Beckett got two outs, with Escobar eventually getting to third. That's when it fell apart.

Beckett was ahead of Gose 0-2, and then threw four straight balls for the two-out walk. And Rasmus made him pay, driving a two-out, two-run double the other way, off the top of the monster, giving the Blue Jays a 4-0 lead after two innings, and leading to a 6-1 Toronto win.

"Well I thought he had good stuff all night," said Valentine after the loss. "The leadoff strikeout I thought was good. Then Rasmus hit a low curve ball over Cody's head, and then we got a ground ball to third and we didn't get an out on it.

"He made a couple bad pitches in the first couple innings, and there were four runs. But he had pretty good stuff tonight."

Beckett allowed another run in the fifth, but it was unearned, thanks to a Will Middlebrooks error. Still, he picked up his eighth loss of the season after allowing four earned runs on seven hits and three walks, while striking out seven in six innings.

"I can't say that I'm looking at a whole lot of positives from that outing," added Beckett. "I got burned whenever I didn't make pitches."

Both Valentine and Beckett wish they could have back Gose's second at-bat of the game in the second inning, which was a two-out walk that gave Rasmus a chance to break it open, which he did.

"That 3-2 curveball to walk Gose, I think he lost a little concentration," said Valentine. "And he just threw a fastball out over the plate to Rasmus the next pitch. Before we knew it, it was two runs. He's out of that inning if he drops a curveball in there."

Other than that, Valentine still thought Beckett had "good stuff" in his last two outings.

"I thought he had good stuff tonight," said Valentine. "And I thought he had good stuff the last time out."

Beckett got the win his last time out. It stands as his only win between now and May 20. He's 5-8 with a 4.53 ERA. His and Jon Lester's win total (five each) matches that of Daniel Bard, who's been in Triple-A Pawtucket since June 5, and Bard's last win was on May 29.

"Obviously the results are not where we want them to be, but you've just got to keep going out there," said Beckett. "There's nothing you can really do."

The Red Sox would like those early-inning mistakes to be limited. And until that starts happening, the belief in momentum certainly won't be carrying over to Beckett's next start.

Quotes, notes and stars: Betts has first career five-hit night

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Quotes, notes and stars: Betts has first career five-hit night

BOSTON - Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox' 6-3 loss to the Kansas City Royals

QUOTES:

"We continually do a great job in creating opportunities and I'm confident that (the struggles with men in scoring position) will turn.'' - John Farrell

"When you start off with a five-run spot in the first, that's a tough deficit to overcome.'' - Steven Wright.

"That's how it goes sometimes. Sometimes, we score when we're not expecting to and then when we need to score, sometimes it doesn't happen.'' - Mookie Betts on the team going 4-for-15 with RISP.

 

NOTES:

* The loss was just the third in the last 13 series openers for the Red Sox.

* The game marked the first time in 20 home games in which the Sox never led.

* Boston was 4-for-15 with runners in scoring position.

* The first four hitters in the order were 13-for-19 (.684). The fifth-through-nine hitters, however, were just 2-for-21 (.095).

* Mookie Betts (five hits) leads the majors with 55 multi-hit games.

* Dustin Pedroia has reached base in each of his last eight plate appearances.

* David Ortiz's double was the 625th of his career, passing Hank Aaron to move into 10 place in MLB history.

* Ortiz leads the A.L. in doubles (41) and extra-base hits (72).

 

STARS:

1) Eric Hosmer

Hosmer cranked a three-run homer into the Monster Seats four batters into the game, and the Royals were off and running with a five-run inning.

2) Ian Kennedy

The Royals starter wasn't dominant, allowing nine hits in 5 1/3 innings, but he bailed himself out of a number of jams and limited the Sox to just two runs.

3) Mookie Betts

Betts had his first career five-hit night and knocked in two of the three Red Sox runs, though he also got himself picked off first base.

 

First impressions: Royals' five-run first inning dooms Red Sox in 6-3 loss

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First impressions: Royals' five-run first inning dooms Red Sox in 6-3 loss

First impressions from the Red Sox' 6-3 loss to the Kansas City Royals:

 

Steven Wright recovered nicely after the first inning, but the damage was done.

Wright's last five innings featured just three hits allowed -- one in the infield. But the first inning did the Red Sox in -- two walks followed by a three-run homer, then a single and a two-run homer.

Whether this was a matter of rust for Wright -- who last pitched three weeks ago Friday night -- or an early inability to command his knuckleball is uncertain.

The fact is, Wright dug an early hole for his teammates, and he had the misfortune to do so against a team with the best bullpen in baseball.

To his credit, Wright kept the game somewhat within reach thereafter, but the five-run head start proved too much of a jump.

 

It's time to worry a little about Jackie Bradley.

Bradley was just 7-for-40 in the just-completed road trip, and things didn't get any better on the first night of the homestand.

In the first, he came up with two on and two out and struck out swinging to strand both baserunners. In the third, he came to the plate with runners on the corners and, again, struck out swinging.

We're seeing the same kind of slump that Bradley fell into in previous seasons, where even contact is hard to find, with nine strikeouts in the last 16 at-bats.

Problem is, with Andrew Benitendi on the DL, there aren't a lot of options for John Farrell with the Red Sox outfield.

 

Trying to get Fernando Abad and Junichi Tazawa back on track in low- leverage mop-up didn't work.

Tazawa had a perfect seventh, but gave up a monster shot into the center field bleachers to Lorenzo Cain to start the eighth.

Abad entered, and while he did record a couple of strikeouts, also gave up a single, a walk and threw a wild pitches before he could complete the inning.

Getting some work for the two was the right idea, given that the Sox were down by three runs at the time. A good outing might help either regain some confidence and turn the corner.

But not even that could be accomplished Friday night.