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

Former Red Sox prospect Andy Marte killed in car crash in Dominican Republic

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Former Red Sox prospect Andy Marte killed in car crash in Dominican Republic

Former major leaguer Andy Marte, a one-time top prospect in the Red Sox organization, was killed in a car crash in the Dominican Republic on Sunday. He was 33.

Marte was killed the same day that Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura died in a separate car crash in the Dominican. Ventura was 25. Coincidentally, Ventura was the Royals starting pitcher in Marte's final major league game, for the Arizona Diamondbacks on Aug. 6, 2014.

Marte, drafted by the Braves in 2000, was ranked the No. 9 prospect in baseball in 2005 when the third baseman was traded to the Red Sox as part of the deal that sent shortstop Edgar Renteria to Atlanta and Marte became the top-ranked prospect in the Red Sox organization.  

Marte was traded by the Red Sox to the Indians in 2006 in the deal that sent Coco Crisp to Boston and spent five seasons with Cleveland. His best season was 2009 (.232, six home runs, 25 RBI in 47 games). After a six-game stint with Arizona in 2014, he played in South Korea the past two years.  

Metropolitan traffic authorities in the Dominican told the Associated Press that Marte died when a car he was driving his a house along the highway between San Francisco de Macoris and Pimentel, about 95 miles (150 kilometers) north of the capital.
 

Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura killed in car crash in Dominican Republic

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Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura killed in car crash in Dominican Republic

Kansas City Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura was killed in a car crash in in the Dominican Republic on Sunday morning, according to multiple reports. Ventura was 25 years old.

Highway patrol spokesman Jacobo Mateo told the Associated Press that Ventura died on a highway leading to the town of Juan Adrian, about 40 miles (70 kilometers) northwest of Santo Domingo. He says it's not clear if Ventura was driving.

Ventura was killed the same day former major leaguer Andy Marte died in a separate car crash in the Dominican. Coincidentally, Ventura was the starting pitcher in Marte's final MLB game, for the Arizona Diamondbacks on Aug. 6, 2014. 

Ventura was 13-8 with a 4.08 ERA for the Royals' 2015 World Series champions and 11-12 with a 4.45 ERA in 32 starts in 2016. The right-hander made his major league debut in 2013 and in 2014 went 14-10 with a 3.20 ERA for Kansas City's A.L. pennant winners. 

Ironically, Ventura paid tribute to his good friend and fellow Dominican, Oscar Tavares, who was also killed in a car crash in the D.R. in October 2014, by wearing Tavares' initials and R.I.P. on his cap before Ventura's start in Game 6 of the World Series in 2014. 

Ventura is the second current major league player to die in the past five months. Former Miami Marlins ace Jose Fernandez was killed in a boating accident in Miami on Sept. 25.