By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
HOUSTON -- Every year -- or so it seems -- one starting pitcher in a rotation is the victim of poor run support. When anyone else starts, the runs pile up; when the tough-luck guy takes the mound, however, the offense suddenly dries up.
This year, Josh Beckett is that guy for the Red Sox.
Despite an ERA of 2.20, and 11 quality starts in his first 15 outings, Beckett had just six wins before yesterday. The team was averaging 3.58 runs per outing for him, compared to 7.34 for Jon Lester, 6.30 for John Lackey and 6.16 for Tim Wakefield. Only Clay Buchholz (4.03) was close to Beckett when it came to poor backing.
For eight innings, it looked like Beckett was going to be left with a no decision, despite limiting the Houston Astros to a single run.
The Sox left the bases loaded twice and stranded eight baserunners from the third through the fifth. For the game, they were just 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position.
But then, in the ninth, came a breakthrough of sorts.
With the bases loaded, Kevin Youkilis drew a bases-loaded walk, forcing in the go-ahead run and giving Beckett his 7th win in a 2-1 victory.
"We like to score runs every night for every pitcher,'' said Youkilis. "And it works vice versa sometimes -- some guys have bad outings when we hit the ball well, so...It's a collective team effort; it's not an individual thing. I don't think the pitchers look at that, either.
"Sometimes, they're going to throw bad and not get any runs scored for them. Sometimes, they're not going to get any scored for them. That's stuff that's out of control and out of their control. All we can do is go out there everyday and do our job. But it was nice to get the 'W' there for him.''
Sunday marked the second time in the last three Josh Beckett starts in which the opposition intentionally walked Adrian Gonzalez in the late innings to get to Youkilis.
Both times Youkilis foiled the strategy.
On June 15 in St. Petersburg, FL, the Tampa Bay Rays walked Gonzalez with one out and a runner on third to set up a potential double play. Youkilis then hit a three-run homer off Jeremy Hellickson to account for the only runs in a 3-0 win over Tampa.
Sunday, his at-bat was a little less dramatic, but still led to a victory.
With runners at first-and-third, the Astros elected to walk Gonzalez to load the bases. But then Mark Melancon couldn't find the plate and walked Youkilis on a 3-and-1 pitch to force in pinch-runner Drew Sutton with the go-ahead run.
''When the guy in front of you is hitting .350 with 70-something RBI, it's expected,'' said Youkilis. "I love the challenge, I love going up there and I want to be the guy to bring the run home.''
The Red Sox have reached agreement with at least five international free agents, two industry sources confirmed, including 16-year-oldOF Manuel Marcos from the Dominican Republic who was widely seen as one of the best Latin prospects.
Saturday was the first day that teams could sign players from outside the U.S. and Canada who were 16 years or older. Players from Caribbean countries like the Dominican Republic are not eligible for baseball's entry draft.
The Sox outbid the Yankees -- among others -- for Marcos, who projects as a center fielder.