By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com Follow @maureenamullen
BOSTON Josh Beckett has dominated New York this season.
Entering Sunday nights series finale against the Yankees at Fenway Park, he was 3-0 with a miniscule 0.86 ERA well below his season ERA of and already low 2.20 -- in three starts against them, allowing just two earned runs over 21 innings.
With first place in the American League East up for grabs -- along with the series win and a season series clincher -- Beckett was just the pitcher the Red Sox wanted on the mound.But Beckett had been out of the game for four innings by the time the Sox got their eighth walk-off win of the season in the 10th inning, on Josh Reddicks one-out single to score pinch-runner Darnell McDonald, for a 3-2 win.
Beckett went six innings, giving up one run on six hits and two walks with five strikeouts. The lone run he allowed was to No. 9 hitter Eduardo Nunez, a two-out home run into the base of the light tower above the Green Monster in the fifth inning.
Really good, manager Terry Francona said of Beckett's outing. Left a fastball up too much on the plate to Nunez. Other than that, thats kind of what weve come to expect every five or six days. He gives you a chance to win and doesnt give up a lot of runs.
Hes got a low-2 ERA all year and hes been pretty good. Every five or six days hes been pretty consistent all year. But to pitch like that against them is really something.
Beckett, who threw 101 pitches, 60 for strikes, would have preferred to go deeper in the game.
It was a battle, no doubt about it, Beckett said. Thats a tough team to have one of those days against but the location wasnt real crisp and got away with a few pitches. Saved myself with some off-speed pitches.
Its nice to give your team a few more innings than that, especially against these guys. Its tough enough. You want to minimize the amount of outs that your bullpen has to get but it is what it is and we won. It was a good win.
Nunezs home run, his fourth of the season, came in just his second plate appearance against Becket, after grounding out in the third.
A cutter right down the middle, Beckett said of the pitch to Nunez.
He threw the ball well, said catcher Jason Varitek. He made half of a mistake to Nunez, that really wasnt. A pretty good job of hitting. It might have been up a tiny bit. He had to make some pitches. He had to work hard, which you have to do with that lineup.
Beckett left with the score tied, 1-1. His teammates had chances to put multiple runs up against Yankees right-hander Freddy Garcia, but were unable to do so. In the second inning, the Sox loaded the bases with no outs, but could scratch out just one run. They had runners on first and second with two outs in the fourth but came away empty-handed. In the sixth, facing Boone Logan and Cory Wade, with the bases loaded and two outs the Sox again failed to do so. Saving their best for the 10th inning, with the win going to Daniel Bard (2-5, 2.36 ERA).
It was the 12th time this season Beckett has held opponents to 1 run or no runs, behind only Jered Weavers 15 such outings in the AL this season.
But It was a team-high ninth time in 22 starts this season Beckett came away with a no-decision, matching his single-season career-highs in 2009 and 2010. In seven of those games, the Sox went on to win. In those seven games he has allowed two or fewer runs. In three of his no-decisions, he has held opponents scoreless.
Sundays outing against the Yankees was Becketts team-leading 17th quality start. It was the third time this season he has held the Yankees to 1 or no runs while going at least six innings. Since 1975, the only other Sox pitcher to pitch three such outings against the Yankees was Mike Boddicker in 1990.
Despite lowering his ERA to 2.17, second-best in the AL, he was unable to crack the double-digit mark in wins for the third straight start, his record on hold at 9-4.
After giving up just one run in six innings to the Yankees on Sunday night at Fenway Park, Becketts ERA against the Bombers this season actually went up from 0.86 entering the game to 1.00 while his overall ERA went down, to 2.17. It is the sixth-lowest ERA for Sox starter through 113 games since 1919.
Its definitely something that Im proud of that just because of how good a lineup that is, Beckett said of his performance against the Yankees this season. Even missing Alex Rodriguez, theyve got a few other guys that have stepped up since hes been gone. Its a tough lineup and you have to make pitches. You can't just make pitches with your fastball because they're a really good fastball-hitting team.
Beckett left with the score tied, 1-1. His teammates had chances to put multiple runs up against Yankees right-hander Freddy Garcia, but were unable to do so. In the second inning, the Sox loaded the bases with no outs, but could scratch out just one run. They had runners on first and second with two outs in the fourth but came away empty-handed. In the sixth, facing Boone Logan and Cory Wade, with the bases loaded and two outs and with a chance to push a run across, putting Beckett in position for a potential win the Sox again failed to do so.
Beckett left the game after that, with his ninth no-decision of the season. For now, though, his teammates cant worry about that.
I think its about winning games, Varitek said. We cant help the fact of when we score runs and when we dont. And Im sure theres probably going to be a time where we put up a 15 spot for him when hes going to give up 8. So itll even out. It usually does.
Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen.