Notes: Third straight strong start for Beckett

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Notes: Third straight strong start for Beckett

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Three starts do not a season make, but this much is known about Josh Beckett in 2011: he looks a lot more like the Josh Beckett who dominated hitters in 2007 and 2009 then he did last year.

Beckett didn't get the win in the Red Sox' 4-2, 11-inning victory over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on Thursday night, but that took nothing away from his performance: eight innings, two runs allowed on three hits, and 125 pitches, the second-most he's ever thrown in a game.

"I made pitches when I needed to -- except for one,'' said Beckett.

That one, a 3-and-2 pitch to Torii Hunter with a man on in the seventh, resulted in a game-tying homer for the Angels. Until then, Beckett's only hit allowed was a Baltimore chop by Erick Aybar to lead off the sixth. Beckett had held the Angels hitless through the first five innings.

In his last three starts, Beckett had thrown 23 innings and allowed just three earned runs. His ERA for the season stands at 1.93. Thursday night, he faced three batters over the minimum.

"It's nice to have confidence in all my pitches,'' said Beckett. "I have that right now.''

"He was,'' concluded Terry Francona, "tremendous.''

So tremendous, in fact, that Francona sent Beckett out for the eighth after he was at 108 pitches.

Francona noted that all of the Red Sox pitchers are working with an extra day of rest and Beckett will get another before his next turn, thanks to Monday's off-day in Baltimore. The fact that the the team's three best relievers -- Daniel Bard, Bobby Jenks and Jonathan Papelbon -- had all pitched Wednesday in Oakland also influenced his decision to send Beckett back out.

"From the first pitch of the game,'' the manager obsereved, "he threw all of his pitches for strikes . . . He pitched like he's supposed to.''

The Sox seemed to win almost in spite of themselves, stranding 15 baserunners and going just 2-for-18 with runners in scoring position.

Boston had 10 walks and 8 hits and still managed only four runs in 11 innings.

"I'll take 15 runners stranded with a win,'' said Adrian Gonzalez, who snapped a 2-2 tie in the 11th with a run-scoring double. "It doesn't matter how many hits you get or how many you strand if you come away with a win.''

Gonzalez hasn't had the kind of impact he might have liked through the first 18 games. He has just one homer and before Thursday night, he was tied for fourth on the team in RBI.

But with the game on the line Thursday, Gonzalez came through, roping a double to right to plate J.D. Drew, snapping a 2-2 tie in the top of the 11th.

"I was looking for a ball up,'' he recounted, "just looking for a sacrifice fly. Angels reliever Rich Thompson threw a cutter up-and-in and it stayed flat and I was able to get to it.''

Gonzalez labeled the at-bat ''the situation you want to be in, especially in extra innings.''

Kevin Youkilis left the game in the middle of the second inning after fouling a ball of his left shin during a first-inning at-bat.

He underwent x-rays, which were negative. Youkilis will be re-evaluated again Friday.

"He's pretty sore,'' said Francona after the game.

The injury forced Francona to insert Marco Scutaro at short and move Jed Lowrie, who had started the game at short, to third.

It also meant that Scutaro was the team's cleanup hitter for the rest of the night.

Dustin Pedroia first rolled, then jammed his surgically-repaired left foot into the second-base bag in the third on a successful steal attempt.

"It was kind of like a stinger,'' said Pedroia. "It took a couple of minutes to get the feeling back in there.''

Trainer Mike Reinold and Francona came out to check on Pedroia, who remained in the game.

Pedroia reached base five times in six plate appearances with three singles and two walks.

Jason Varitek's struggles continued at the plate. He was 0-for-3 with three strikeouts (plus a walk and a hit batsman) to drop his average to .043. He has just one hit in 23 at-bats with nine strikeouts.

When asked about his slump, Varitek, utilizing some gallows humors, responded in mock outrage: "I'm freaking locked in!''

Turning more serious, he noted that he was "a little too fast left-handed. It's getting in there and settling down. Fortunately, I can help us win games in other ways.

"I can't hit much worse. I've never hit this bad. I need to use my eyes a little better.''

"If we're shaking hands after a game,'' said Francona, "Varitek did enough.''

While unwilling to say his view of the catchingsituation has changed any, Francona said before the game he also plans to use Saturday in the thirdgame of the series with Daisuke Matsuzaka pitching.

"Iwanted to catch both Varitek and Jarrod Saltalamacchia two games eachhere,'' said Francona. "Tek's done such a good job with Beckett.''

Varitek will also catch Daisuke Matsuzaka Saturday.

Saltalamacchiahas struggled defensively, unable to slow other teams from running onhim. The Angels, of course, are a particularly aggressive team on thebasepaths.

Francona added that he'll have to monitor Varitek's catching load due to the captain's age (39).

"That'ssomething we need to think about,'' said Francona. "He's not 70 and heworks hard at being in good shape. But I just want to make sure he'snot being asked to do too much.''

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Brian Johnson: 'Awesome feeling' after five-hitter vs. Mariners

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Brian Johnson: 'Awesome feeling' after five-hitter vs. Mariners

BOSTON - Brian Johnson had quite a turnaround in his second time on Fenway Park's mound.

Johnson pitched a five-hitter in his first big league appearance at Fenway, and the Boston Red Sox stretched their winning streak to a season-high six games with a 6-0 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Saturday.

The 26-year-old left-hander became the first Red Sox pitcher to throw a shutout in his first Fenway start since Pedro Martinez on April 11, 1998. In Johnson's first start in Fenway - his fourth as a professional - he sustained a season-ending facial fracture when he hit by a line drive while pitching for Class A Lowell in 2012.

"The last time I walked off the mound here was 2012 and I made two pitches," Johnson said. "Today I went nine innings. Today was pretty cool."

Johnson left Triple-A for a little over a month last season to get treatment for an anxiety issue.

"Obviously with some stuff that I've been gone through in my career, it's an awesome feeling" he said.

But despite the stellar outing, Johnson was optioned back to Triple-A after the game.

"That's the reality of the game," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "We had a chance to congratulate him and yet option him back to Pawtucket, with David Price coming here Monday."

Brought up from the minors for the start, Johnson (2-0) gave up five singles, struck out eight and walked none. His only previous big league starts were at Houston on July 21, 2015, and at Toronto on April 18 this year.

Johnson was helped by a semi-leaping catch by center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. at the wall in the sixth, Bradley's diving grab of Nelson Cruz's sinking liner in the ninth and Bradley's game-ending running catch of Kyle Seager's drive.

Xander Bogaerts' RBI single triggered a three-run first inning and Bradley hit a two-run homer in the sixth

Shut out for the second straight day, Seattle has lost seven of eight.

"Their guy threw the ball over the plate. He threw strikes," Mariners manager Scott Servais said. "I won't take anything away from what he did, but we're not swinging the bat very well."

Rob Whalen (0-1) gave up five runs and seven hits over 5 1/3 innings in his Mariners' debut, his first big league start since Aug. 23 for Atlanta. He is Seattle's 12th starting pitcher, the most in the major leagues.

Andrew Benintendi and Sandy Leon also had RBI singles in the first, when the Red Sox had two batters hit by pitches, two walks and two runners thrown out on the bases - Dustin Pedroia at third for the first out and Hanley Ramirez at the plate for the last.

Johnson beats Mariners 6-0 for Red Sox' 6th straight win

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Johnson beats Mariners 6-0 for Red Sox' 6th straight win

BOSTON - Brian Johnson pitched a five-hitter in his first big league appearance at Fenway Park, and the Boston Red Sox stretched their winning streak to a season-high six games with a 6-0 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Saturday.

Brought up from Triple-A Pawtucket, Johnson (2-0) gave up five singles, struck out eight and walked none. The 26-year-old left-hander's only previous big league starts were at Houston on July 21, 2015, and at Toronto on April 18 this year.

Johnson became the first Red Sox pitcher to throw a shutout in his first Fenway start since Pedro Martinez on April 11, 1998. In Johnson's first start in Fenway - his fourth as a professional - he sustained a season-ending facial fracture when he hit by a line drive while pitching for Class A Lowell in 2012.

Johnson was helped by a semi-leaping catch by center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. at the wall in the sixth, Bradley's diving grab of Nelson Cruz's sinking liner in the ninth and Bradley's game-ending running catch of Kyle Seager's drive.

Xander Bogaerts' RBI single triggered a three-run first inning and Bradley hit a two-run homer in the sixth

Shut out for the second straight day, Seattle has lost seven of eight.

Rob Whalen (0-1) gave up five runs and seven hits over 5 1/3 innings in his Mariners' debut, his first big league start since Aug. 23 for Atlanta. He is Seattle's 12th starting pitcher, the most in the major leagues.

Andrew Benintendi and Sandy Leon also had RBI singles in the first, when the Red Sox had two batters hit by pitches, two walks and two runners thrown out on the bases - Dustin Pedroia at third for the first out and Hanley Ramirez at the plate for the last.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Mariners: RHPs Hisashi Iwakuma and Felix Hernandez, both on the DL with right shoulder inflammation, threw bullpen sessions. Hernandez said he "felt really good."... LHP James Paxton (strained forearm) is set to come off the DL and pitch at home Wednesday.

Red Sox: Pedroia was back at second base after getting Friday off to rest his sore left knee and not play on a wet field. He was hit by a pitch on the right forearm his first time up and went 1 for 3. ... 3B Pablo Sandoval, on the DL with a sprained right knee, was expected to play nine innings Saturday night in a rehab assignment with Triple-A Pawtucket. Manager John Farrell didn't rule out that he could be activated next week.

UP NEXT

Mariners: RHP Christian Bergman (1-2, 6.30 ERA) gave up 10 runs and 14 hits over four innings in a 10-1 loss Tuesday at Washington.

Red Sox: RHP Rick Porcello (3-4, 4.35) has gone at least six innings in eight of nine starts.