Beckett has the answers for struggling Red Sox

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Beckett has the answers for struggling Red Sox

By MaureenMullen
CSNNE.com

BOSTON Josh Beckett delivered exactly what the Red Sox needed.

With the team mired in its worst start in decades -- and the starting pitching bearing a large portion of the responsibility for that -- Beckett delivered a gem, shutting down the Yankees as the Sox got their second win of the season, 4-0.

Right from the very beginning he was commanding all his pitches, and . . . when he opens up the plate with that two-seamer to the lefties, it seems like it opens up the entire plate, manager Terry Francona said. Commanded his breaking ball, threw it in all counts. He established to where they couldnt sit on a pitch because he was changing speeds, going back and forth. Think he ended up with one walk. Really, really good.

Beckett (1-1, 2.08 ERA) went eight innings, allowing just two hits and a walk, with 10 strikeouts. It was his best performance in a very long time.

The erstwhile ace said he felt some sense of responsibility to deliver.

I think we all do that, he said. When our day comes to pitch, were not thinking about what happened yesterday or two days ago or the future. I think everybodys trying to do their thing and we havent been getting a lot of breaks.

Beckett set the tone with his first batter, striking out Brett Gardner looking at a curveball. After Derek Jeter grounded out to Marco Scutaro at shortstop, Beckett struck out Mark Teixeira looking at a fastball. He struck out six of the nine batters in the Yankees lineup.

Five of his strikeouts came on curveballs.

Obviously, the curveball gives me another weapon, he said. I felt like I kind of had both of them going a little bit because early in the game I threw some early in the count to get back in or get ahead or establish it or whatever, and I think that set it up for later.

For Francona, though, Becketts two-seam fastball was the key pitch.

When hes able to establish that two-seamer to lefties, thats where I always feel like the plate opens up, Francona said. And he did it early in the game and its a good feeling. Ive seen him enough now to where, to me, thats where he really is, hes okay.

On this night, Beckett was more than okay. He faced more than the minimum in just two innings. In the third, Jorge Posada struck out, swinging at a curveball, Eric Chavez singled, and Beckett hit Russell Martin with a pitch. But Beckett got Gardner to end the inning on a 4-6-3 double play.

In the fourth, he gave up a one-out walk to Teixeira and a single to Robinson Cano before striking out Curtis Granderson swinging at a fastball, and getting Nick Swisher to ground out to Dustin Pedroia at second.

Beckett retired the final 14 batters he faced. His offense gave him a 1-0 lead in the fourth, but it wasnt until Marco Scutaros bases-loaded double in the seventh scored David Ortiz (walk) and J.D. Drew (walk), to give Beckett some breathing room.

They definitely have a good lineup, Beckett said. The strikeouts, theyre great, but the biggest pitch I had to make was the double play ball that got Gardner out. If he hits that anywhere else, its so hard to turn a double play.

Beckett had at least one strikeout in each of his innings. It was his 11th career 10-plus strikeout performance, but first since July 27, 2009, against Oakland.

Beckett gave little indication that this type of sterling performance was about to be delivered. Entering the game he had a career 6.26 ERA against the Yankees. In his last outing, April 5 in Cleveland, he took the loss giving up three runs on five hits and four walks, needing 106 pitches to get through five innings.

I dont know, Beckett said. You just take it day by day. You're not waiting on the magic bullet. Theres no magic bullet. You just go out there and you deal with what youve got that day.

We still got a long way to go. I feel good about my outing, yes. I went eight innings, saved the bullpen a little bit. We still got a long way to go.

Francona, though, saw some signs.

I think his stuff has been fine, he said. I think its been, a couple of the games at the end of spring training he wasnt throwing his breaking ball for strikes. He was leaving the two-seamer over the middle of the plate. Stuffs really the same, velocity, all that stuff. Just his fastball at times, it creeped up above the knees. Hes always been keeping his changeup down all spring going into this start. But when hes establishing the fastball and then hes flipping the curveball in for strikes, its a nice combination.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter athttp:twitter.commaureenamullen

Broadcasting role unlikely for Ortiz, who met with Red Sox this week

Broadcasting role unlikely for Ortiz, who met with Red Sox this week

BOSTON - It's a tad ironic the Red Sox met with David Ortiz on Tuesday about his post-playing career, and then the offense went out and did nothing and Xander Bogaerts was publicly lamenting Ortiz's absence two days later.

John Henry, Tom Werner, Ortiz and his agent, Fern Cuza, met at Fenway Park on Tuesday to discuss the retired slugger’s future role with the organization, team president Sam Kennedy said. 

Nothing's imminent, but there's one thing Ortiz is unlikely to do with the Sox in the near future: broadcasting. He could still do some of that in the postseason for say, FOX, but it appears an arrangement with NESN isn't in the cards for now, per Kennedy.

Ortiz's role with the Red Sox is still expected to be wide-ranging, something bigger than the standard alumnus agreement. He seems set on taking his time, enjoying his retired life, saying over the weekend he wants to be able to give the job the time it deserves. 

Kennedy in April was unsure if anything would get done this year. 

As for the team's play without Ortiz, and Bogaerts' comments?

"This is an incredibly talented ballclub," Werner said Friday at a luncheon benefitting the Red Sox Foundation and the Foundation To Be Named Later. "I’m really not terribly concerned. Like all fans, I’m a bit frustrated when we don’t give great pitching run support.

"We struggled the last couple of nights. It’s frustrating to think that Chris Sale, who I think is the best pitcher in the American League, doesn’t have much run support. But it’s April. I've been taught to not really look at the standings 'til July. Frustrated by the past two days, but look at the standings, and we’re only one win behind the Cubs. So you know, I mean I wish we were playing a little bit better,  but the team is going to bounce back."

Werner reiterated the Sox have room in their budget to add players ahead of the trade deadline.


 

Red Sox-Cubs lineups: Pedroia hits sixth, Pomeranz on mound

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Red Sox-Cubs lineups: Pedroia hits sixth, Pomeranz on mound

The offensively challenged Red Sox welcome the defending world champion Cubs (something you haven’t been able to write since 1909) to Fenway Park tonight for a three-game series. 

Boston (11-10) has the fewest home runs in the majors (11) and is tied for next-to-last with Toronto in the American League in runs scored (78). The Red Sox scored only once in the two-game sweep by the Yankees (on an RBI groundout by Chris Young in the ninth inning Wednesday). 

They turn to left-hander Drew Pomeranz (1-1, 4.60 ERA) tonight against Cubs right-hander Jake Arrieta (3-0, 3.65), who flirted with a no-hitter at Fenway (7 2/3, 10 strikeouts in a 2-0 Chicago win) the last the time Cubs visited in 2014. 

Dustin Pedroia (.242) is hitting sixth for the first time in his career and Xander Bogaerts (.313) leads off for the Red Sox.

Earlier Friday, the Red Sox have added utility man Chase d’Arnaud - acquired off waivers from the Atlanta Braves - to the 25-man roster and called up right-handed reliever Ben Taylor from Triple-A Pawtucket.

To make room on the roster, lefty reliever Robbie Ross Jr. and utility man Steve Selsky were optioned to Pawtucket. 

The full lineups: 

CUBS
Kyle Schwarber DH
Kris Bryant 3B
Anthony Rizzo 1B
Ben Zobrist LF
Addison Russell SS
Willson Contreras C
Jason Heyward RF
Javier Báez 2B
Albert Almora CF

Jake Arrieta RHP 

RED SOX
Xander Bogaerts SS
Andrew Benintendi LF
Mookie Betts RF
Hanley Ramirez DH
Mitch Moreland 1B
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
Christian Vazquez C
Marco Hernandez 3B

Drew Pomeranz LHP