The best and worst of Beckett

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The best and worst of Beckett

It took Josh Beckett 37 pitches to get the first three outs of last night's game. And over that stretch, we saw Beckett at his absolute worst.

Was he not entirely warmed up? Had the early 3-0 lead affected his focus? Was he just plain unlucky? The real answer probably lies somewhere in the middle, but regardless of the reason, the results were brutal.

To start the game, he gave up a single to Denard Span, who was replaced Jamey Carroll after a fielder's choice. Then, Beckett walked Joe Mauer (after going ahead 1-2) to put runners on first and second, walked Josh Willngham (after going ahead 0-2) to load the bases, and then walked Justin Morneau (after going ahead 0-2) to force home a run. To make it all the more excruciating, Beckett was working so characteristically slow that you had time to finish all five Game of Thrones books during the wait between pitches.

Over the course of his straight three walks, Beckett was also squeezed by umpire Adrian Johnson. Pretty flagrantly at that. So by the time the Twins' run crossed the plate, the Texas Tough Guy was in full effect. You could see, almost hear Beckett swearing at Johnson from the mound. And you know what? He had every right to be angry, but the whole time I think we were all thinking the same thing:

"Is this guy serious? With everything that's going on with this team. With all the criticism and bad publicity he's personally received over the last seven months. Is he really going to get himself thrown out in the first inning?"

It sure looked that way. Especially after Beckett worked himself out of the jam and stormed off the mound glaring and screaming in Johnson's direction.

But you have to give Johnson credit. Sure, his incompetence had created that monster in the first place, but he was still well within his right to toss Beckett. There are a lot of umpires in baseball who would have thrown him out immediately, and filed the scene away in their Spank Bank. But Johnson resisted the temptation, and allotted Beckett who at this point was thinking about nothing but himself and his own warped sense of pride a little temper tantrum.

And thank God he did.

Beckett came back out in the second inning and retired the side on nine pitches. In the third, now with a 5-1 lead, he ran into a little trouble but escaped after only 16 pitches. In the fourth, now with a 7-1 lead, he retired the side on eight pitches. In the fifth, now with a 10-1 lead, he gave up one run but was generally sharp. And in the sixth he was sharper than a Hanzo sword, striking out the side on 18 pitches.

And that was his night.

A solid sixth inning outing; one that's probably better off broken down into two separate frames.

Frame No. 1: One inning, 37 pitches, three walks, one strikeout, one run and one long, extended, selfish temper tantrum. The embodiment of the kind performance and attitude that helped ruin last season and could very well threaten this one.

Frame No. 2: Five innings, 63 pitches, zero walks and four strikeouts. Calm, composure and consistent dominance. The guy Red Sox need every five days and whose existence may ultimately make or break their fortunes.

The best and worst of Josh Beckett.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Drellich: Sale may be Red Sox' most electrifying pitcher since Pedro

Drellich: Sale may be Red Sox' most electrifying pitcher since Pedro

The newest lefty ace can succeed where David Price did not.

Chris Sale might be the most electrifying pitcher the Red Sox have had since Pedro Martinez.

Josh Beckett had his moments. Jon Lester was steadily excellent.

But the stuff Sale brings is a step above.

A spaghetti-limbed motion and a fast pace. The ability to throw any pitch in any count, something said of many pitchers, but noted here without exaggeration. A delivery that disguises each pitch as another until there’s no time to react.

MORE ON CHRIS SALE

There's been a lot of talk about how competitive Sale is. That's great.

Let's acknowledge how filthy he is before going crazy about the intangibles. He carves hitters better than he does jerseys.

Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has made some questionable moves, but he deserves some optimism here. Some early praise, even -- no matter how well Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech, the best prospects he gave the White Sox for Sale, are faring this spring.

Where Dombrowski failed with Price thus far, he may succeed immediately with Sale.

Yes, Sale's 10-strikeout performance against the Yankees on Tuesday night was just a spring training game. But he was dominant to the point that a Grapefruit League game was actually made interesting.

Must-watch, even.

“You guys saw,” Sale told reporters in Florida. “Just felt good.”

All three pitches were working for Sale, the fastball, slider and changeup, and the variants thereof.

“I've been working on my changeup a little bit more the last couple of outings,” Sale said. “My last time out it wasn't great, but just working on it in between starts, just throwing it on the flat ground, it's a pitch that doesn't take a whole lot of stress on your arm. So even when you're just playing catch, you can flip it around, work on grips, things like that.

"As far as my slider, I feel good about it. . . . Obviously when I'm throwing harder, I think it's a little bit flatter. When I take some off of it, not only do I have a little bit more control, but I think it has a little bit more depth. Plus, it kind of creates another pitch in there. It's like an in-between fastball-changeup type of thing. Anything to give them a different look or try to throw them off. That’s kind of the name of pitching."

American League Rookie of the Year runner-up Gary Sanchez was miles in front of the 2-and-2 changeup he swung over in the first inning. Matt Holliday was frozen by a slider at the belt on the inner half.

Chris Carter, he of 40-home run power, was beat by a 2-and-2 fastball an inning later, clearly thinking off speed and unable to decipher just what was coming in time.

Aaron Hicks tried to golf an 0-and-2 slider by flinging his bat into the stands, somewhere behind the third-base dugout.

That’s just the first two innings.

"He added his third pitch more this evening than five days ago, when it was more fastball-changeup," manager John Farrell said. "He had his breaking ball to both sides of the plate, and got underneath to some right-handed swings. And any time he needs to, he's got such good feel for the changeup to get him back in counts to give him a different look. He was impressive."

Opening Day at Fenway Park will be exciting. But Game No. 2, when Sale is to make his Sox debut, should bring the most intrigue.

Chris Sale dominant again in Red Sox' win vs. Yankees

Chris Sale dominant again in Red Sox' win vs. Yankees

By Pat Bradley, CSN Staff

Chris Sale was treating this like a regular season game, and delivered an excellent, midseason performance.

The Boston Red Sox got a taste Tuesday of the star pitcher they acquired last offseason, when Sale dominated the New York Yankees in a 4-2 spring training road win in Tampa, Florida.

Sale, who entered the game having thrown 63 of his 68 spring pitches for strikes (92%), continued to show off his incredible command, throwing 58 of his 86 pitches for strikes (67%) in the victory.

The 27-year-old struck out five of the first six Yankees he faced, and finished with an even 10 strikeouts on the night. He’s now struck out 20 batters to just one walk this spring.

"Obviously, anybody who knows anything about sports knows about Boston and New York," Sale said, via The Providence Journal’s Tim Britton. "Coming in here, playing against the Yankees, playing at their park in a night game, it gives it more of a regular-season feel. That's what we're here for. Anytime you can get that much closer to a regular-season game, the better off we're going to be."

His single blemish came on a 2-2 pitch to Yankees designated hitter and noted masher Matt Holliday, who sent the ball sailing to the opposite field for a two-run home run that at the time tied the score at 2.

Sale quickly regrouped, lining out Chris Carter to left field on his very next pitch to end his outing. His final line: two runs on four hits with 10 strikeouts and a hit batsman in six innings on 86 pitches.

That’s quite a debut to the rivalry, and something the Red Sox are well aware could become a regular thing.

“I don't want to say tonight is the norm,” began Red Sox manager John Farrell, via The Providence Journal, “but certainly he is very capable of doing that every time he walks to the mound.”

Sale wasn’t the only one strutting his stuff on Tuesday, though. Youngsters Marco Hernandez and Sam Travis continued to hit and were pivotal parts of a Red Sox offense that pounded out 13 hits.

After Mike Miller opened the scoring with a solo homer for Boston in the third inning, Travis kept things rolling a few batters later when his base hit scored Hernandez.

Travis was back at it again in the seventh inning, when his groundout scored Heiker Meneses for what proved to be the game-winning run.

Hernandez and Travis each finished 2-for-4, with Hernandez tripling (his fifth of the spring) and scoring a run and Travis driving in two runs of his own. They raised their spring averages to .422 and .351, respectively.

Every member of the starting lineup -- which did not feature regulars Mookie Betts, Dustin Pedroia, Hanley Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval or Xander Bogaerts -- recorded at least one hit, save for Jackie Bradley Jr., who went 0-for-3 with a walk and two strikeouts out of the cleanup spot.

Boston is back in action Thursday with a 1:05 p.m. start against the Pittsburgh Pirates.