Boston Red Sox

Notes: Beckett solid, but not good enough

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Notes: Beckett solid, but not good enough

By MaureenMullen
CSNNE.com

DETROIT The Red Sox' five-game winning streak ended when they ran into a Justin Verlander Sunday night in the finale of their seven-game road trip.

"Long day Saturday, long day Sunday today for guys, said Jason Varitek. We just ran into a little buzzsaw."

The buzzsaws name on Sunday was Verlander. But for much of the season, Josh Beckett has been that buzzsaw for the Red Sox, carving up opponents.

Sunday against the Tigers, he went six innings, giving up two runs on five hits and a season-high five walk, with five strikeouts. His outing was good, but against Verlander, it needed to be better than good.

Beckett gave up as many runs in the first inning, two, as he has in his last five outings combined, spanning 30 innings. After the first, he allowed just two runners Danny Worth after a second-inning walk, and Victor Martinez after a third-inning single to advance as far as second base.

But by that time, Verlander had all the cushion he would need.

"You just can't stake that guy the lead like that," said Beckett. "If it's one run, it's one thing. He's tough enough without you staking him to a couple runs."

Beckett faced seven batters in the first inning, throwing 26 pitches. He opened the game by striking out Austin Jackson before allowing the next four batters to reach base. Andy Dirks walked and scored on Brennan Boeschs double to right. Boesch then scored on Miguel Cabreras single to right. It was Cabreras first career hit off Beckett. Victor Martinez, who went 3-for-3 against Beckett, singled to right before Beckett could retire Don Kelly on a fly ball to Carl Crawford in left and Alex Avila on a called strike, on a curveball.

He was up with some pitches, manager Terry Francona said. "To his credit, after that, he really settled down and battled. I thought part of the night he was rushing a little bit and getting under some pitches. But he never gave in and he never gave up any more runs. He gave us a chance. Verlander had a lot to say about the outcome tonight."

Verlander threw a career-high 132 pitches. His final pitch, walking Jacoby Ellsbury with two outs in the eighth, was a 100-mph fastball.

He had everything -- velocity, breaking ball, changeup," Francona said. "He got up in the pitch count and he started throwing harder. Obviously, he's earned their trust, as he should. He's one of the best pitchers in the league."

On most nights, against most pitchers, Beckett might have come away with the win. Matched up with a buzzsaw, though, he was cut down.

"He's impressive, Beckett said. He's good.

Jason Varitek recorded his 300th career double in the sixth inning. He is the sixth catcher in AL history with at least 150 homers and 300 doubles.

Rich Hill threw a perfect seventh inning, striking out Austin Jackson and Andy Dirks. He has now thrown 12 scoreless innings over his 14 appearances since his first appearance with the Sox on Sept. 14, 2010. The 14 scoreless outings are the most to start a Sox career since at least 1919, passing the previous mark of 13 (15.0 IP) by Ramon Ramirez in 2009. Hills 12 scoreless innings are also the most to start a career with the Sox since Ramirez in 2009.

In his last four starts against the Red Sox, spanning 30 23 innings, Verlander has allowed just six earned runs, for a 1.76 ERA.

Miguel Cabreras first-inning single was his first career hit off Beckett.

The Sox were shutout for the fifth time this season.

The game was delayed at the start for 50 minutes because of rain.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter athttp:twitter.commaureenamullen

How should Red Sox handle Chris Sale's pursuit of Pedro Martinez's strikeout record?

How should Red Sox handle Chris Sale's pursuit of Pedro Martinez's strikeout record?

BALTIMORE — Baseball records are so precise. When to pursue them, when to value them even if minor risk is involved, is not nearly as clear cut.

The Red Sox, Chris Sale and John Farrell have stumbled upon that grey area, and it will continue to play out in the final two weeks of the regular season.

Sale reached a tremendous milestone on Wednesday night, becoming the 14th different pitcher in major league history to reach 300 strikeouts in a single season. No one else has done it in the American League this century. Clayton Kershaw was the last to get there in the National League two years ago.

“It was really fun,” Sale said of having his family on hand. “My wife, both my boys are here, my mother-in-law. Being able to run out and get a big hug from him and my wife and everybody — it was special having them here for something like this. … I’ll spend a little time with them before we head to Cincinnati.”

Now, there’s another mark ahead of Sale: Pedro Martinez’s single-season club record of 313. And the pursuit of that record is going to highlight the discussion of what matters even more.

The tug-of-war between absolute pragmatism and personal achievement was on display Wednesday, when Farrell gave ground to the latter. 

The manager was prepared for the questions after a celebratory 9-0 win over the Orioles. His pitchers threw 26 straight scoreless innings to finish off a three-game sweep of the Orioles, and the Sox had the game well in hand the whole night.

With seven innings and 99 pitches thrown and 299 strikeouts in the books, Sale went back out for the eighth inning.

If you watched it, if you saw Sale drop a 2-2 front-door slider to a hapless Ryan Flaherty for the final strikeout Sale needed and his last pitch of the night, you surely enjoyed it. Records may not be championships, but they have their own appeal in sports that’s undeniable. 

But Sale could have recorded strikeout No. 300 next time out. Surely, he would have. He needed all 111 pitches to do so Wednesday.

In this case, the difference between 299 and 300 wound up being just 12 pitches. 

It’s doubtful those 12 pitches will ruin Sale’s postseason chances, particularly considering he was throwing hard all game, touching 99 mph. 

Nonetheless, the Sox hope to play for another month, and they've been working to get Sale extra rest. So, why risk fatigue, or worse, injury?

“The two overriding factors for me,” Farrell explained, “were the pitch counts and the innings in which he was in control of throughout. Gets an extra day [for five days of rest] this next time through the rotation. All those things were brought into play in the thinking of bringing him back out.

“We know what the final out of tonight represented, him getting the 300 strikeouts. Was aware of that, and you know what, felt like he was in complete command of this game and the ability to go out and give that opportunity, he recorded it.”

If Sale makes his final two starts of the year, he’ll break Martinez's record of 313. At least, Sale should. But he might not make his projected final start, in Game No. 162, so that he’s set up for Game 1 in the Division Series.

(So, if he could do reach 314 Ks in his next start, he’d make this discussion disappear — but 14 Ks in one outing is not easy.)

When should exceptions be made to let someone get to a record? Where do you draw the line? 

Would it be reasonable to get Sale an inning or two against the Astros in Game 162 if he was a few strikeouts away, even though he may face the Astros in the Division Series?

Letting the Astros get extra looks against Sale is a different matter than Sale throwing 12 extra pitches. But neither is really a guarantee of doom. They're small risks, of varying size.

Consider that if Sale is on, he should rough up the Astros no matter what.

What's 12 pitches Wednesday for a guy who leads the majors in average pitches thrown per game? Not enough to keep Farrell from letting Sale have a go at one milestone.

Will the Sox work to put Sale in position for the next?

Records don’t usually fall into such a grey area. Outside of the steroid era, anyway.

Sale gets strikeout No. 300 as Red Sox shut out O's, 9-0

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Sale gets strikeout No. 300 as Red Sox shut out O's, 9-0

BALTIMORE - Chris Sale struck out 13 to become the first AL pitcher in 18 years to reach the 300 mark, and the Boston Red Sox moved to the brink of clinching a playoff berth by beating the Baltimore Orioles 9-0 on Wednesday night.

Sale (17-7) reached the milestone on his last pitch, a called third strike against Ryan Flaherty to end the eighth inning. The last AL pitcher to fan 300 batters in a season was Boston's Pedro Martinez in 1999, when he set a club record with 313.

Mookie Betts and Deven Marrero homered for the Red Sox, who reduced their magic number for reaching the postseason to one. If the Angels lost to Cleveland later Wednesday night, Boston would be assured no worse than a wild-card spot in the AL playoffs.

The Red Sox, of course, would prefer to enter as AL East champions. They hold a three-game lead over the second-place Yankees with 10 games left.

After winning two straight 11-inning games over the skidding Orioles, Boston jumped to a 6-0 lead in the fifth and coasted to its 11th win in 14 games.