By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
BOSTON Theres a reason Josh Beckett has only nine wins to show for his All-Star season despite an ERA hovering around 2.00.
Becketts ugly little reason struck again on Saturday at Fenway Park in the first six innings, but it wasnt fatal this time around.
The Red Sox entered the game supplying Beckett with a team-worst 3.71 average run support for each of his 19 starts this year, but they finally arrived via some timely hitting from Jacoby Ellsbury.
Varitek singled with two outs, and Marco Scutaro followed with a ground rule double down the right field line that was stopped from being more by a wrong-headed fan that reached out to snare the ball. The fan misplay was rendered moot by a two-strike, two-out Ellsbury single up the middle that plated both Varitek and Scutaro to give the streaking Sox all they would need in a 3-1 victory at Fenway.
Beckett was brilliant while cruising through seven innings with no cushion at all to work with. The power righty only faltered in the final frame with a single run blemish while scattering seven hits and fanning seven Seattle hitters as his record improved to 9-3 on the season.
The only Seattle run in the game arrived courtesy of the immortal Mike Carp, who has bashed a home run in each of the last two games against the Sox for his only two big league round-trippers on the season. Lanky Seattle right-hander Blake Beavan matched Beckett inning for inning, and took advantage of several Boston base-running misadventures before their seventh inning rally.
The Sox set the tone in the first couple of innings when a one-out Dustin Pedroia double was wasted in the first frame, and David Ortiz was gunned down at home plate for the third out on a potential sacrifice fly in the second inning. There were clearly a few instances of the Sox shooting themselves in the foot with mental errors and miscalculations in judgment.
Adrian Gonzalez topped it off in the sixth with a rare gaffe on the basepaths while running into an out at third base after lacing a ground rule double down the right field line. All of the mistakes were forgotten, however, when the Sox once again won another game with a dominant seventh inning. Daniel Bard escaped a no-out bases-loaded jam in the eighth frame and Jonathan Papelbon wrapped things up for his 23rd save of the season.
Player of the Game: Jacoby Ellsbury
Ellsbury has been the best player on the diamond for the Red Sox many times this season, and he was at it again on Saturday night with a game-winning two-run single in the bottom of the seventh with two strikes and two outs. He then almost made a sliding catch in the top of the ninth that would have really capped it all off. Ellsbury finished with a 2-for-4 evening that gives him 11 multi-hit games in his last 17 appearances, and has him batting a robust .413 over that stretch dating back to June 30. Ellsbury has become a gigantic difference-maker to the Sox and has in the words of Josh Beckett figured it out at the Major League level.
Honorable Mention: Josh Beckett
Beckett has been saddled with the worst run support on the Red Sox (3.71 runs per appearance entering Saturday nights start) and it appeared that might be the reason for his demise on Saturday night. The gunslinger didnt let it shake him. Instead, Beckett dominated with all of his pitches for seven strong innings, fanned seven Ms hitters and managed to hold Seattle to one run until his offense woke up in the bottom of the seventh frame. Beckett improved to 9-3 on the season and dropped his ERA to a miniscule 2.07 on the season a pair of numbers that many around the Sox didnt see coming before the season began.
The Goat: Eric Wedge
Twice the Seattle manager has had games within reach against the Sox this weekend, and twice he probably waited just a little too long to call for the bullpen. Sure its understandable to make that kind of mistake with King Felix Hernandez on the hill, but a baseball manager needs to know when its time to lift Blake Beavan from the ballgame in the decisive seventh inning. Wedges miscalculation took the base-running gaffes of both David Ortiz and Adrian Gonzalez out of the equation, but also magnified his own curious call for a bunt while trailing by two runs in the eighth inning. Also the Goose Gossage handlebar moustache is a little bizarre since were on the subject.
The turning point could have been when a fan in the right field stands foolishly pawed at a Marco Scutaro ball hit down the line, and turned what would have been an RBI hit to tie the game into a harmless ground-rule double. But instead the real turning point came one batter later when Jacoby Ellsbury turned on a Bleavan fastball and rocketed a two-run single up the middle to provide the tying and go-ahead run for the Olde Towne Team. It was the first runs of the night for the Sox offense and it was all that they would need.
By the Numbers: 93-33
The lopsided ratio of runs scored for the Sox against their opposition in the seventh inning of games this season. The seventh frame is their most productive inning by close to 30 runs and shows exactly how much damage the Sox are doing after chasing starting pitchers out of ballgames. The Sox outscored the Ms 3-1 in the seventh inning of Saturday nights win.
Quote of Note:
As a pitcher it would be more impressiveyeah its a big deal. Its a milestone. But I dont think hes ready to hang it up yet. Josh Beckett having some fun with Sox manager Terry Francona earning his 1000th career big league win as a skipper Saturday night before turning serious.