Has anything changed with Josh Beckett?

763994.jpg

Has anything changed with Josh Beckett?

So, where do you stand on Josh Beckett today?

Or better, where do you stand on where the Sox should stand?

You still think they should trade him? Did you ever?

Are you sick of all these questions?

OK, me too. I feel like a five-year old who just caught two zebras mating at the zoo. Mommy, what was that? What were they doing? What were those noises? Is that where I came from? Whats going on?!

So heres the deal: In the two starts since his disaster against the Indians, Josh Becketts thrown 14.2 innings and given up only one earned run. Hes struck out 14, while walking only four and setting a new Guinness Record for Worlds Longest Single. Make no mistake, Becketts been great, and not necessarily in the way were accustomed. Hes not blowing guys away with barely-visible fastballs; hes confusing them with guile and strategery. Hes somewhat ironically using the magic of maturity to transform himself on the mound and give us every reason to believe that (if he wants to) Beckett can remain strong, to quite strong for the extent of his contract and beyond. Sure, it's helped that his two dominant performances came against the Mariners (who have a team batting average of .235) and the Phillies (whose starting pitcher boasted the second best average in the line-up) but hey, wins are wins. And Beckett's run off two straight.

As a result, after eight months of demanding his head, the tune has slightly changed. The cries to ship Beckett out of town have softened, and are now drowned out by multiple variations of the same sarcastic question: "So, who wants to trade him now!? LOLZ"

Translation: How does it make sense for a team that's struggled miserably with their starting pitching to trade their best pitcher?

Answer: Because the motivation behind trading Beckett was never a matter of performance. Sure, his struggles may have brought the fan base to its wits end, but in reality, wanting to trade Beckett because (on top of everything else) he was a suddenly pathetic pitcher didn't make sense. Can you imagine if Ben Cherington had actually tried to shop Beckett after that Cleveland start?

Hey, GM X, its Ben. Listen, weve got this ornery, old veteran whos owed 47M over the next two and half years, any interest? Oh and by the way, he cant get anyone out.

They'd have had a hard time giving Beckett away. But in the eyes of many folks in Boston, giving him away would have been OK. With Beckett, it was never about what the Sox were getting back, and it wasn't about what he was doing on the field

It was about changing the culture.

It was about identifying the sour batch of milk that was stinking up the clubhouse and tossing it out in the street. It was about turning the page. Exorcising the demons. Addition by subtraction. Yada yada yada. (I mentioned the bisque).

So, ask yourself: Do two solid starts against two average lineups really change that?

I don't see how. In fact, if you wanted to trade Josh Beckett before, after these last two outings, that desire should only increase. Now you can get rid the ugly attitude we can all agree that he's the same guy, right? That 14 innings aren't going to change 11 years? and maybe even get something in return. If you were cool with addition by subtraction, then aren't you on board with addition by subtraction and addition? (Eat your heart out, John Nash). Yes, you are. You have to be. But of course, it doesn't really matter.

We all know Beckett's not going anywhere. For the Sox to trade No. 19, they'd have to admit that there's a problem, and with Lucky Larry running the show, that's not happening. Not now. Not ever. But for now, at least that problem is doing a littlea lot of bit of good.

Even if he's the same unlikable guy off the field, Beckett's returned to being the same reliable arm on the field. Of course, that "good" can disappear just as quickly as it arrived. The truth is that from now until the end of his time in Boston, Beckett will only be as good as his last start. We'll go through multiple stages of love, hate, tolerance and ambivalence. The Josh Beckett Experience will remain anything but stable.

But today, it's OK. Today, we can sit back and feel comfortable with him taking the mound every five days, and in the process, not care quite as much about how he's spending the other four.

And after eight months of drama and distraction, we'll take it.

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

Weird umpire replay mistake helps Red Sox to record-tying 20 Ks

red_sox_craig_kimbrel_052517.jpg

Weird umpire replay mistake helps Red Sox to record-tying 20 Ks

New York’s mistake helped the Red Sox, and they weren’t playing the Yankees.

The Red Sox struck out 20 in a game for the third time in franchise history on Thursday night, and they were able to do so only after MLB’s replay team — based in Manhattan — gave Craig Kimbrel an extra batter to strike out in the ninth inning.

A 6-2 win over the Rangers featured 16 strikeouts for Red Sox pitching heading into the top of the ninth at Fenway Park. Kimbrel came on for a non-save situation because he had five days off previously.

There’s always that outside chance for a four-strikeout inning, and it happened. Even for a four-strikeout inning, however, this was bizarre.

The first batter, lefthanded hitting Nomar Mazara, swung and missed at a back-foot breaking ball for strike 3 — a literal back-foot breaking ball, because it hit him in that foot after he whiffed on the pitch.

On a swing and a miss with a pitch that hits the batter, the ball should be dead. He should not have been able to reach first base. But the umpires didn’t catch the ball hitting Mazara, and instead saw it as a wild pitch. 

Sox manager John Farrell asked for a review and the umpires went for one, but came back empty-handed. The crew was told, erroneously, that the play could not be looked at and the batter was awarded first base.

“It was just a swinging strike three, ball that go away and he obviously reached first base,” crew chief Alfonso Marquez told pool reporter Tim Britton of the Providence Journal. “The only thing that I can tell you, and the only thing I will say is, this was a replay issue. New York will come out with a statement.”

You could say it worked out just fine. Kimbrel went on to strike out the next three, and got the Sox to 20 Ks.

Kimbrel and Tim Wakefield are the only Red Sox pitchers to fan four batters in a single inning. Wakefield did it in the ninth inning on Aug. 10, 1999. 

Kimbrel did it once before as well, when he was with the Braves on Sept. 26, 2012.

No one has struck out five in a major league inning, although Kimbrel has as good a chance as anyone.

“The guy strikes out the world,” Matt Barnes said. “It’s ridiculous. … His fastball is seemingly unhittable. Complement that with the breaking ball he’s got, which comes right off that same plane, when he’s commanding it like he is, the numbers kind of speak for themselves. It’s kind of ridiculous. It’s fun to watch.”

The Sox have struck out 20 in a nine-inning game three times since 1913. Roger Clemens' two 20-strikeout games are the other two.

Red Sox win 4th straight behind stellar outing from Pomeranz, 6-2

Red Sox win 4th straight behind stellar outing from Pomeranz, 6-2

BOSTON - Drew Pomeranz pitched six strong innings and tied his career high with 11 strikeouts to lift the Boston Red Sox to a 6-2 victory over the Texas Rangers on Thursday night.

Xander Bogaerts and Deven Marrero hit their first home runs of the season helping Boston to their fourth straight win.

Pomeranz (4-3) made it as far as six innings for the third time this season and beat Texas for the first time in nine career outings.

Elvis Andrus homered and Nomar Mazara had two hits and an RBI for Texas, which has lost four of five overall and has lost 15 of 21 on the road.

Andrew Benintendi and Mitch Moreland had RBI singles in the first inning as Boston got to Rangers pitcher Nick Martinez (1-3) early.