By Maureen Mullen
BOSTON Josh Beckett threw his second straight strong start, as the Red Sox beat the Blue Jays, 4-1, Saturday afternoon at Fenway Park. The win improves the Red Sox record to 3-10.
Beckett (2-1) went seven innings giving up one. The Blue Jays lone run off him came in the second inning, when Aaron Hill hit a one-out double and scored on Travis Sniders single to right field. After the second inning, Beckett allowed just three more base runners on a single and two walks with just one reaching second base.
The Red Sox jumped out to a two-run lead in the first inning. Jed Lowrie, appearing in the lead-off spot for the first time in his career, singled to deep shortstop. In 13 games this season, Lowries single was the first hit the Red Sox have gotten by a lead-off batter in the first plate appearance of a game. Dustin Pedroia followed that with a walk, with Lowrie scoring on Adrian Gonzalezs single to center. Kevin Youkilis double to right scored Pedroia, for a 2-0 lead. After David Ortizs walk, the Red Sox had the bases loaded with no outs but could do no more damage in the inning against Jays lefty-hander Jo-Jo Reyes. Mike Cameron and Jason Varitek both struck out and Darnell McDonald ended the inning with a groundball to second.
In the second, Lowries first home run of the season, scoring Jacoby Ellsbury who opened the inning with a walk, put the Sox up 4-1.
Daniel Bard relieved Beckett in the eighth. John McDonald opened the inning with a lead-off single, but was thrown out attempting to steal second, Jason Varitek connecting with Dustin Pedroia. It was the third time this season Red Sox catchers have thrown out a runner in 19 attempts. Bard then struck out Yunel Escobar and got Corey Patterson to ground out to Gonzalez.
Jonathan Papelbon pitched the ninth. With two outs Aaron Hill reached base on Kevin Youkilis' error and advanced to third on defensive indifference. But, Papelbon got Travis Snider to fly out to Mike Cameron in left, giving the Red Sox their third win of the season.
Player of the Game
Beckett (2-1, 1.80 ERA) stifled the Blue Jays over seven innings, allowing just one run on three hits and two walks with nine strikeouts. It was a much-needed sterling performance, his second in as many outings against American League East rivals. With his outing on April 10 against the Yankees, Beckett has thrown a combined 15 innings, allowing just one run on five hits and three walks with 19 strikeouts, for a 0.60 ERA.
Saturday against the Jays, after giving up a run in the second inning, he allowed just three more baserunners two walks and a single but allowed just one, Aaron Hill on a walk and stolen base in the fourth inning, to advance as far as second base.
Five of his strikeouts including the first four -- were called, four were swinging. Four strikeouts came on fastballs, three on curveballs, and one each on a cutter and a slider.
The curveball was kind of my go-to pitch, Beckett said. I struggled a little with my changeup. I still think I threw enough of them to where they still had to think about it. You still have to throw fastballs. You just have to locate it. You cant just go up there and flip a bunch of breaking balls and get behind in the count and stuff like that.
Making his first career start in the lead-off spot, Lowrie did what no other lead-off batter has been able to do when he singled in his first at-bat. In 13 games this season, that was the only hit Red Sox lead-off batters have managed in their first plate appearance of a game. Lowrie went 3-for-5 with two runs scored, two RBI, and his first home run of the season.
Lowrie also scored the first run of the game. After singling in the first, he took second on Dustin Pedroias walk and scored on Adrian Gonzalezs single to center. In the second inning, his first home run of the season, into the first row of the Monster seats in left field, scored Jacoby Ellsbury, who had walked, to put the Sox up 4-1. Lowrie also had an infield single in the eighth.
In nine games this season, he is batting .500 (11-for-22). He has more career home runs, five, against Toronto than against any other team. He has hit in five straight games, going 10-for-15 for a .667 average, and has reached safely in 11 of his 16 plate appearances in that time.
The results are there right now, Lowrie said. The preparation is there. Im just doing everything I can. It comes down to preparation and thats what Im really happiest about: Ive been able to find a real good routine.But its not about me. Its about the team.
Reyes (0-2, 6.75) lost his second consecutive start, going three innings (plus two batters in the fourth). He allowed four runs (all in the first two innings), on seven hits and five walks, with three strikeouts and a home run. It was his shortest start since also going three innings on May 13, 2009, while with the Braves. Of the four runs he allowed, two reached base on walks Pedroia in the first and Ellsbury in the second.
Reyes, who needed 37 pitches to get through the first inning, took the loss in consecutive starts for the first time since losing five straight from June 23 July 20, 2008 with the Braves. He walked five batters Saturday after walking just two combined over his first two starts.
The Turning Point
Red Sox' second inning
The Jays scored a run in the top of the inning to cut the Sox lead, 2-1. But Reyes allowed the Sox to extend the lead in their half. After putting Ellsbury on with a walk to open the inning, he gave up Lowries first home run of the season. Those were all the runs the Red Sox would need.
By the Numbers
In his last two outings, Beckett has thrown 15 innings with 19 strikeouts. In that stretch he has allowed five hits, three walks and one run. That gives him a walks-and-hits-per-innings pitched ratio of 4.8, a strikeouts-to-walks ratio of 6.33, and strikeouts-per-nine innings ratio of 11.4. This is the kind of vintage Josh Beckett performance the Sox need if they are to be successful this season.
Quote of Note
Its nice to pitch well. Just, we got to win some more games, however we got to do it, if we got to win 15-12, whatever. We got to win games. Like I said, its nice to pitch well but it doesnt make it any easier on the other days.
--Josh Beckett on his last two outings
Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen