Momentum lost in Beckett's early struggles

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Momentum lost in Beckett's early struggles

BOSTON -- Before Friday night's game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park, Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said that he doesn't believe in momentum.

And was he ever right.

The old phrase in baseball, with regards to momentum, is simple. It's as good as the next day's starting pitcher.

Josh Beckett took the hill on Friday night, trying to keep Boston's two-game win streak alive following back-to-back solid one-run outings from Felix Doubront and Clay Buchholz.

And spirits were riding high entering Beckett's 16th start of the season, thanks in part to Cody Ross' ninth-inning walk-off home run the night before.

"I don't believe in momentum," said Valentine before Friday's game against the Blue Jays. "I mean, I think that you could have momentum in a game and in an inning, but I don't think yesterday necessarily carries over, other than you have a good feeling when the game starts."

Even that would be a stretch, mainly because of Beckett's brutal 10.20 first-inning ERA this season.

But Beckett struck out Toronto lead-off man Anthony Gose to begin the game. And it looked like things would be different in this first inning.

Then Colby Rasmus drove a ball over Cody Ross' head in right field for a one-out triple. And in the next at-bat, Edwin Encarnacion grounded to third, and Will Middlebrooks decided to try and throw Rasmus out with a tag at home.

The throw was in time, the tag seemed good, but the ump called him safe, and the Blue Jays led 1-0. An Adam Lind single and then a J.P. Arencibia single scored another Toronto run, and it was more of the same for Beckett in the first.

"I thought the first inning, I made decent pitches," said Beckett, who also defended Middlebrooks' aggressiveness on his throw to the plate. "The second inning was the inning where things got away from me."

Yunel Escobar led off the top of the second with a double, and then Beckett got two outs, with Escobar eventually getting to third. That's when it fell apart.

Beckett was ahead of Gose 0-2, and then threw four straight balls for the two-out walk. And Rasmus made him pay, driving a two-out, two-run double the other way, off the top of the monster, giving the Blue Jays a 4-0 lead after two innings, and leading to a 6-1 Toronto win.

"Well I thought he had good stuff all night," said Valentine after the loss. "The leadoff strikeout I thought was good. Then Rasmus hit a low curve ball over Cody's head, and then we got a ground ball to third and we didn't get an out on it.

"He made a couple bad pitches in the first couple innings, and there were four runs. But he had pretty good stuff tonight."

Beckett allowed another run in the fifth, but it was unearned, thanks to a Will Middlebrooks error. Still, he picked up his eighth loss of the season after allowing four earned runs on seven hits and three walks, while striking out seven in six innings.

"I can't say that I'm looking at a whole lot of positives from that outing," added Beckett. "I got burned whenever I didn't make pitches."

Both Valentine and Beckett wish they could have back Gose's second at-bat of the game in the second inning, which was a two-out walk that gave Rasmus a chance to break it open, which he did.

"That 3-2 curveball to walk Gose, I think he lost a little concentration," said Valentine. "And he just threw a fastball out over the plate to Rasmus the next pitch. Before we knew it, it was two runs. He's out of that inning if he drops a curveball in there."

Other than that, Valentine still thought Beckett had "good stuff" in his last two outings.

"I thought he had good stuff tonight," said Valentine. "And I thought he had good stuff the last time out."

Beckett got the win his last time out. It stands as his only win between now and May 20. He's 5-8 with a 4.53 ERA. His and Jon Lester's win total (five each) matches that of Daniel Bard, who's been in Triple-A Pawtucket since June 5, and Bard's last win was on May 29.

"Obviously the results are not where we want them to be, but you've just got to keep going out there," said Beckett. "There's nothing you can really do."

The Red Sox would like those early-inning mistakes to be limited. And until that starts happening, the belief in momentum certainly won't be carrying over to Beckett's next start.

Farrell angered after Castillo fails to run out grounder

Farrell angered after Castillo fails to run out grounder

The Red Sox signed Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo to a seven-year, $72.5 million contract bn August 2014. Over parts of three seasons, the 29-year-old has a .679 OPS across 337 plate appearances in the majors and spent the vast majority of the 2016 season at Triple-A Pawtucket.

Castillo had a chance to start things off on the right foot in 2017, but that ship has already sailed. On Thursday against Northeastern at JetBlue Park, Castillo didn’t run out a routine ground ball. He claims he lost track of the outs. Manager John Farrell isn’t happy about the situation. Via Evan Drellich of the Boston Herald:

“Disappointing for a couple of reasons,” Sox manager John Farrell said. “One, he has lost the number of outs. Still, regardless of another of outs, getting down the line is controllable. And for a player in his situation, every little aspect of the game is important. That’s something that was addressed in the moment. He needs to execute the game situation. And for that matter, every player. But that one obviously stood out.”

Everyone always makes far too big a deal about running out grounders. It’s a real nit to pick when it’s February 23 and your team just finished playing an exhibition game that is even more meaningless than the other exhibition games that will be played in the coming month.

That being said, Castillo has to prove himself to merit inclusion on the 25-man roster and that means dotting all his i’s and crossing all his t’s. Even if he went hitless all spring, Castillo could have at least said he couldn’t have done anything else better. But on day one, he already gave his team a reason to count him out.

Moreland, Travis homer to lead Red Sox past Northeastern 9-6 in opener

Moreland, Travis homer to lead Red Sox past Northeastern 9-6 in opener

Mitch Moreland and Sam Travis hit three-run homers and left-hander Brian Johnson started and pitched two scoreless innings to help the Red Sox win their spring training opener, 9-6, over Northeastern University on Thursday in Fort Myers, Fla.

Johnson, who made one spot start in his MLB debut with the Red Sox in 2015 but then was derailed by injuries and anxiety issues last season, struck out three and walked one Thursday. He's expected to start the season at Triple-A Pawtucket, where he went 5-6 with a 4.44 ERA in 15 starts in 2016.

Moreland, the left-handed hitting first baseman signed to a one-year deal after spending his first seven seasons with the Texas Rangers, and Travis, a right-handed hitting first base prospect coming back from knee surgery last season, each hit three-run homers in a six-run third inning.

Pablo Sandoval, attempting to reclaim the third-base job after missing nearly all of last season after surgery on his left shoulder, went 1-for-2 with a double. 

The Red Sox open Grapefruit League play Friday afternoon when they host the New York Mets at JetBlue Park.