Beckett dominates in second straight outing


Beckett dominates in second straight outing

PHILADELPHIA -- The golf outings, his availability for a 17-inning marathon and the severity of his lat injury all seem to be in Josh Beckett's rear-view mirror.

Instead, the focus is on Beckett's last two outings, during which he's pitched 14 23 innings and allowed a solitary run.

After tossing seven shutout innings last week against Seattle in the Red Sox' final game of the homestand, he was nearly as good Sunday in limiting the Philadelphia Phillies to one run in 7 23 innings.

In those two starts, Beckett has in no way resembled the same guy who was torched for seven runs in 2 23 innings against Cleveland on May 10, then was serenaded with boos from fans at Fenway Park.

"He was on the hill and taking control of the game," said Valentine. "He was aggressive in the strike zone with his fastball, his cutter, his curveball, his changeup. It looked like he wanted it."

The Beckett who pitched yesterday -- and one who pitched last Tuesday at Fenway -- in no way resembled the Beckett who was shelled two starts out.

"I just think he's throwing his curveball so much stronger," explained Valentine, "and his changeup (is better) with such good arm speed that he's controlling the head of the hitters."

Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who has been paired with Beckett for the last two, said Beckett must be viewed in the big picture, and not what the Indians did against him earlier this month.

"JB has been great a pitcher," said Saltalamacchia, who provided his battery-mate with a three-run homer in the third. "You can't (just) look at the last two times. You look at his career numbers and you can't say the last time out or two."

He and Beckett have been quick to form a a good working partnership after Beckett threw mostly to Kelly Shoppach earlier this season, and, of course, almost exclusively to Jason Varitek for much of his career here.

"It's fun," said Saltalamacchia. "He's a great pitcher. It's fun to be able to call any pitch, any time. Once you get to know what a guy likes to do and feels, it becomes a little easier. Especially when his stuff is working as well as it is, it's a no-brainer."

Beckett used his changeup and cutter to get plenty of ground balls. Ten of his first 21 outs were recorded on the ground, a sound strategy given how many balls were hit out of Citizen's Bank Ballpark this weekend.

"You have to make pitches when you need to," he said. "They had a couple of situations where they could have gotten back into the game and I felt like I made some good pitches and some guys made some good plays (behind me)."