Beckett's blue after a rare rough outing

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Beckett's blue after a rare rough outing

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
SEATTLE Its been a pretty mellow season for Josh Beckett.

Sure, the Red Sox offense hasnt done much to provide him with offensive support and it seems like hes been stuck on nine wins for an eternity.

But if things havent been letter-perfect for the gun-slinging righty, theyve been pretty close. He's third in the American League with a 2.40 ERA and tied for second with a 0.97 WHIP. He's allowed a miniscule 105 hits in 150 innings pitched for a .198 batting average against. He even made the All-Star team. Everything aside from the fickle win-loss total -- which is more an indication that the Red Sox haven't scored runs for him rather than any statement about his pitching -- has been among the best of his career as he's fully bounced back from last year's tumultuous 6-6, 5.78 campaign. He's been one of the biggest factors in the Red Sox' first-place standing.

Because of all that, Beckett hasnt been the four-letter-word-dropping fiend with a short fuse and colorful vocabulary that hes been during tough times in his Boston career. Hes been much more the seasoned 31-year-old veteran who's seen it all and done even more.

But Saturday nights first-inning freefall brought back the R-rated Beckett everybody knows so well.

The big righty had his worst start of the season, giving up five runs and a pair of homers before hed even recorded the first three outs of the game. He was able to lock things down after that, but the Sox couldn't make it all the way back and dropped a 5-4 decision that lowered Beckett's record to 9-5.

Beckett, who suffered his first career loss in Seattle after eight starts, hadnt allowed more than seven hits in a game this season. But the powder-puff Mariners offense pounded out nine hits against the hurlers mediocre stuff in five innings of fitful work.

The five runs allowed in Saturday nights first inning by Beckett equaled the total number of runs he'd allowed in the first inning all season. That means a couple of different things: Beckett has been consistently awesome in the first inning of his starts this season, and he was the opposite of awesome against a woefully inadequate Seattle offense.

That was a tough first inning, said Terry Francona. He didnt miss many bats.

Ichiro Suzuki rocked the first Beckett fastball of the night into the right-field stands for a solo home run, and the Sox righty continued to miss high with just about everything as the anticipated duel between himself and Seattle ace Felix Hernandez never materialized.

Beckett prides himself on being able to work deep into ballgames and saving the bullpen, but he could only fight through five innings and 99 pitches. He's finished with five innings or less only four times in 23 starts this season.

And when it was over, his reaction was vintage Beckett . . . from 2010, that is.

I left pitches up, they got it, said Beckett, who then repeated the same no-frills assessment. Left pitches up, they got hit.

Its pretty expletive simple. Its tough whenever youre facing a guy like Hernandez. That expletive game could have been over before the second inning. If you leave expletive balls right down the middle, then, expletive, I could have gone up there and hit. It was tough to make adjustments early on.

The good news: Beckett's next start will come against the Kansas City Royals, another team thats not quite ready for prime time, and he should be properly motivated to get everything down in the zone.

If not, then get ready for another episode of Beckett raw, uncut and uncensored, a show thats been happily stored on the shelf all summer.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Report: Third base among 'major upgrades' Red Sox seek by trade deadline

Report: Third base among 'major upgrades' Red Sox seek by trade deadline

Despite still being owed more than $42 million after this year, Pablo Sandoval's days with the Red Sox appear numbered. So, it's no surprise that landing a third baseman at the trade deadline is a priority.

That's among the "major upgrades" the Sox are seeking by the July 31 deadline, MLB.com columnist Mark Feinsand reports.

With Sandoval now on his second disabled list stint of the season - this time with an ear infection - after turning into what Feinsand calls "a horror tale for the Red Sox," and with fill-ins Josh Rutledge and Deven Marrero holding down third, it's apparent that the position is a glaring need.

"Sandoval is basically a non-entity at this point," a source told Feinsand. "They need to make a move there."

Feinsand mentions the usual suspects - Mike Moustakas of the Royals and Todd Frazier of the White Sox - as possibilities. Also, he wonders if former MVP Josh Donaldson could be pried away from the Blue Jays (if "Dave Dombrowski knocks their socks off") with an offer and if Toronto is still sputtering at the deadline?

Those other upgrades? "Boston is also looking for pitching, both in the rotation and bullpen," Feinsand writes. Again, no surprise there.

Drellich: Red Sox' talent drowning out lack of identity

Drellich: Red Sox' talent drowning out lack of identity

A look under the hood is not encouraging. A look at the performance is.

The sideshows for the Red Sox have been numerous. What the team’s success to this point has reinforced is how much talent and performance can outweigh everything else. Hitting and pitching can drown out a word that rhymes with pitching — as long as the wins keep coming.

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At 40-32, the Sox have the seventh-best win percentage (.556) in the majors. What they lack, by their own admission, is an intangible. Manager John Farrell told reporters Wednesday in Kansas City his club was still searching for its identity.

“A team needs to forge their own identity every year,” Farrell said. “That’s going to be dependent upon the changes on your roster, the personalities that exist, and certainly the style of game that you play. So, with [David Ortiz’s] departure, his retirement, yeah, that was going to happen naturally with him not being here. And I think, honestly, we’re still kind of forming it.”

To this observer, the vibe in the Red Sox clubhouse is not the merriest. 

Perhaps, in the mess hall, the players are a unified group of 25 (or so), living for one another with every pitch. What the media sees is only a small slice of the day. 

But it does not feel like Farrell has bred an easygoing, cohesive environment.

Farrell and big boss Dave Dombrowski appeared unaligned in their view of Pablo Sandoval’s place on the roster, at least until Sandoval landed on the disabled list. 

Hanley Ramirez and first base may go together like Craig Kimbrel and the eighth inning. Which is to say, selfless enthusiasm for the ultimate goal of winning does not appear constant with either.

Dustin Pedroia looked like the spokesperson of a fractured group when he told Manny Machado, in front of all the cameras, “It’s not me, it’s them,” as the Orioles and Red Sox carried forth a prolonged drama of drillings. 

Yet, when you note the Sox are just a half-game behind the Yankees for the American League East lead; when you consider the Sox have won 19 of their past 30 games, you need to make sure everything is kept in proportion.

How much are the Sox really hurt by a lack of identity? By any other issue off the field?

Undoubtedly, the Sox would be better positioned if there were no sideshows. But it’s hard to say they’d have ‘X’ more wins.

The Sox would have had a better chance of winning Wednesday’s game if Kimbrel pitched at any point in the eighth inning, that’s for sure. 

Kimbrel is available for one inning at this point, the ninth, Farrell has said.

A determination to keep Kimbrel out of the eighth because that’s not what a closer traditionally does seems like a stance bent on keeping Kimbrel happy rather than doing what is best for the team. The achievement of a save has been prioritized over the achievement of a team win, a state of affairs that exists elsewhere, but is nonetheless far from ideal — a state of affairs that does not reflect an identity of all for one and one for all.

Maybe the Sox will find that identity uniformly. Maybe they’re so good, they can win the division without it.