Beckett continues to dazzle despite no decisions

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Beckett continues to dazzle despite no decisions

By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com Follow @maureenamullen

BOSTON Josh Beckett has dominated New York this season.

Entering Sunday nights series finale against the Yankees at Fenway Park, he was 3-0 with a miniscule 0.86 ERA well below his season ERA of and already low 2.20 -- in three starts against them, allowing just two earned runs over 21 innings.

With first place in the American League East up for grabs -- along with the series win and a season series clincher -- Beckett was just the pitcher the Red Sox wanted on the mound.But Beckett had been out of the game for four innings by the time the Sox got their eighth walk-off win of the season in the 10th inning, on Josh Reddicks one-out single to score pinch-runner Darnell McDonald, for a 3-2 win.

Beckett went six innings, giving up one run on six hits and two walks with five strikeouts. The lone run he allowed was to No. 9 hitter Eduardo Nunez, a two-out home run into the base of the light tower above the Green Monster in the fifth inning.

Really good, manager Terry Francona said of Beckett's outing. Left a fastball up too much on the plate to Nunez. Other than that, thats kind of what weve come to expect every five or six days. He gives you a chance to win and doesnt give up a lot of runs.

Hes got a low-2 ERA all year and hes been pretty good. Every five or six days hes been pretty consistent all year. But to pitch like that against them is really something.

Beckett, who threw 101 pitches, 60 for strikes, would have preferred to go deeper in the game.

It was a battle, no doubt about it, Beckett said. Thats a tough team to have one of those days against but the location wasnt real crisp and got away with a few pitches. Saved myself with some off-speed pitches.

Its nice to give your team a few more innings than that, especially against these guys. Its tough enough. You want to minimize the amount of outs that your bullpen has to get but it is what it is and we won. It was a good win.

Nunezs home run, his fourth of the season, came in just his second plate appearance against Becket, after grounding out in the third.

A cutter right down the middle, Beckett said of the pitch to Nunez.

He threw the ball well, said catcher Jason Varitek. He made half of a mistake to Nunez, that really wasnt. A pretty good job of hitting. It might have been up a tiny bit. He had to make some pitches. He had to work hard, which you have to do with that lineup.

Beckett left with the score tied, 1-1. His teammates had chances to put multiple runs up against Yankees right-hander Freddy Garcia, but were unable to do so. In the second inning, the Sox loaded the bases with no outs, but could scratch out just one run. They had runners on first and second with two outs in the fourth but came away empty-handed. In the sixth, facing Boone Logan and Cory Wade, with the bases loaded and two outs the Sox again failed to do so. Saving their best for the 10th inning, with the win going to Daniel Bard (2-5, 2.36 ERA).

It was the 12th time this season Beckett has held opponents to 1 run or no runs, behind only Jered Weavers 15 such outings in the AL this season.

But It was a team-high ninth time in 22 starts this season Beckett came away with a no-decision, matching his single-season career-highs in 2009 and 2010. In seven of those games, the Sox went on to win. In those seven games he has allowed two or fewer runs. In three of his no-decisions, he has held opponents scoreless.

Sundays outing against the Yankees was Becketts team-leading 17th quality start. It was the third time this season he has held the Yankees to 1 or no runs while going at least six innings. Since 1975, the only other Sox pitcher to pitch three such outings against the Yankees was Mike Boddicker in 1990.

Despite lowering his ERA to 2.17, second-best in the AL, he was unable to crack the double-digit mark in wins for the third straight start, his record on hold at 9-4.

After giving up just one run in six innings to the Yankees on Sunday night at Fenway Park, Becketts ERA against the Bombers this season actually went up from 0.86 entering the game to 1.00 while his overall ERA went down, to 2.17. It is the sixth-lowest ERA for Sox starter through 113 games since 1919.

Its definitely something that Im proud of that just because of how good a lineup that is, Beckett said of his performance against the Yankees this season. Even missing Alex Rodriguez, theyve got a few other guys that have stepped up since hes been gone. Its a tough lineup and you have to make pitches. You can't just make pitches with your fastball because they're a really good fastball-hitting team.

Beckett left with the score tied, 1-1. His teammates had chances to put multiple runs up against Yankees right-hander Freddy Garcia, but were unable to do so. In the second inning, the Sox loaded the bases with no outs, but could scratch out just one run. They had runners on first and second with two outs in the fourth but came away empty-handed. In the sixth, facing Boone Logan and Cory Wade, with the bases loaded and two outs and with a chance to push a run across, putting Beckett in position for a potential win the Sox again failed to do so.

Beckett left the game after that, with his ninth no-decision of the season. For now, though, his teammates cant worry about that.

I think its about winning games, Varitek said. We cant help the fact of when we score runs and when we dont. And Im sure theres probably going to be a time where we put up a 15 spot for him when hes going to give up 8. So itll even out. It usually does.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen.

Rick Porcello starts, Drew Pomeranz relieves in Red Sox' 5-3 loss to Twins

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Rick Porcello starts, Drew Pomeranz relieves in Red Sox' 5-3 loss to Twins

Rick Porcello and Drew Pomeranz combined to allow all five of the Red Sox' runs in Boston's 5-3 loss to the Minnesota Twins.

Porcello finished his start by fanning four, allowing four hits and earning two runs over four innings. Pomeranz followed in the next four innings with four strikeouts, five hits allowed and three earned runs. Pomeranz allowed ByungHo Park's eighth-inning, two-run homer, which ended up being the game-winner.

Porcello, however, was optimistic after the loss.

"The buildup was good," Porcello told reporters, via RedSox.com. "Today I felt as good as I've felt all spring. At this point, I'm ready to go. I'm looking forward to the start of the season."

While the Sox offense was able to get three runs off Ervin Santana in his 4 2/3 innings, they struggled against the Twins' next five pitchers. Xander Bogaerts (2 of 3) and Pablo Sandoval (1 of 3) managed homers. Hanley (3 of 3) Ramirez had a double, and Dustin Pedroia (2 of 3) had two singles.

Kyle Kendrick will start Thursday in the Sox' final Spring Training series against the Washington Nationals. First pitch is at 1:05 p.m. ET.

Who's on first for Red Sox? It may be not someone you'd expect

Who's on first for Red Sox? It may be not someone you'd expect

Who’s on first? A middle infielder, maybe.

Hanley Ramirez, Josh Rutledge and Mitch Moreland aren't fully healthy. So the 25th man on the Red Sox has become a matter of corner-infield triage.

Rutledge was gearing up to play some first base with Ramirez restricted to DH because of his throwing shoulder. But Rutledge is hurt now too, likely headed to the disabled list with a left hamstring strain, Sox manager John Farrell said Wednesday morning in Florida.

Here’s the easiest way to think about who takes Rutledge's place: Who would the Red Sox like to see less against left handed pitching, third baseman Pablo Sandoval or first baseman Mitch Moreland? 

If it’s Sandoval, then you carry Marco Hernandez, who can play third base.

“He’s a very strong candidate,” manager John Farrell told reporters in Florida on Wednesday. “He’s one of a few that are being considered strongly right now.” 

If it’s Moreland, than you carry Steve Selsky, who has a history playing first base.

“He’s a guy we’re having discussions on,” Farrell said. “Any guy in our camp that we feel is going to make us a more complete or balanced roster, Deven Marrero, they’re all in consideration.”

The additional wrench here is that Moreland has the flu. If he's not available at all for a few days to begin the season, then the Sox probably have to carry Hernandez.

Why? Because Brock Holt can play some first base if Moreland is out. But then, you’d need another back-up middle infielder, and Hernandez gives you that. 

Hernandez is also hitting .379 in 58 at-bats this spring entering Wednesday.

Moreland isn’t the only one who has the flu.

"It’s running through our clubhouse," Sox manager John Farrell told reporters in Florida on Wednesday, including the Providence Journal’s Tim Britton. "Probably be held out for three days for a quarantine.” (LINK:http://www.providencejournal.com/sports/20170329/with-josh-rutledge-and-mitch-moreland-ailing-first-base-depth-compromised-for-red-sox)

That means the Red Sox won't have Moreland for their exhibitions against the Nationals on Friday and Saturday in Washington D.C. and Annapolis, Md. Moreland could still be ready for the regular season, but would likely be at less than full strength.

Having Ramirez available would sure make things a lot simpler for the Sox.

Both Sandoval at third base and Moreland could use right-handed bats to complement them. Or more specifically, they could use people who can hit left-handed pitching to complement them.

Hernandez is a left-handed hitter who might actually be able to hit lefties. But the Sox haven't used him at first base, and there's no indication they will.

“As we look at the upcoming games, there is the potential for two left-handed starters in Detroit,” Farrell said. “So there’s a number of things being factored right now.”

Early in spring training, Farrell was asked what player had started to catch his eye.

The guy he mentioned was Selsky, an outfielder and first baseman the Red Sox feel fortunate to have picked up off waivers because he still has minor league options remaining.

Now Selsky, who has already technically been cut from major league spring training, has a chance at making the opening day roster. He's 27 and hit .356 in 45 Grapefruit League at-bats.

Chris Young isn't going to have an easy time finding at-bats as it stands now, but the Sox aren't considering moving him to first base.