Beckett's fourth inning does him in

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Beckett's fourth inning does him in

By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com Follow @maureenamullen
BOSTON There havent been many times this season Red Sox manager Terry Francona has had to get a reliever warming up in the bullpen early in a Josh Beckett start. But, thats what he had to do Thursday afternoon in the fourth inning of the finale of the four-game series with the Royals at Fenway Park, calling upon left-hander Randy Williams.

Beckett cruised through the Royals lineup, facing the minimum number of batters through the first three innings. He recorded at least one strikeout in each of those frames, with two in the third, and appeared comfortably on his way to his fourth win in his last five outings.

But Beckett, with a two-run lead, faced as many batters nine -- in the fourth as he had up to that point in the game. The Royals batted around in the fourth, the first team to do so against Beckett since the Yankees in the sixth inning on May 2, 2010.

He opened the inning with consecutive walks to Alex Gordon and Mitch Maier before giving up a three-run homer to Billy Butler to straightaway center field. After retiring Eric Hosmer, Jeff Francoeur reached on a two-base error by Drew Sutton in left field (originally ruled a double, changed after the game). Then Mike Moustakas double to right scored Francouer for the fourth run. Beckett gave up a single to Matt Treanor before retiring Chris Getz and Alcides Escobar to get out of the inning.

With four runs allowed in the inning, Beckett gave up as many as he had in his previous 23 innings pitched, going back to July 8 against the Orioles.

Beckett took the loss, his first at Fenway this season, as the Sox fell, 4-3, to the Royals, splitting the series against the American League Centrals last-place team. He went seven innings, giving up four runs (three earned) on five hits and three walks with eight strikeouts. Only that post-game scoring change turning what was Francouers fourth-inning double into a two-base error by Sutton salvaged a quality start for Beckett, his 15th in 20 outings.

I thought he was in great control, Francona said. He was efficient, didn't have a high-pitch inning at all. But that one inning, that was kind of out of character. I think it was a 38-pitch inning. Walked two guys in a row, which I dont know, thats probably happened, but I dont remember it. And then he gets ahead of Butler and actually the pitch was down. It just kind of wandered over too much of the plate. But it was not a bad pitch. Just a good hitter. That was enough. They held on.

"It was uncharacteristic that he lost two guys. Sometimes its a little bit of everything. Hes ahead of butler. The ball's down. A good hitter came up at the wrong time. Then we get a fly ball to Sutt Drew Sutton. Tough play but we dont get the out. It kind of extends, makes him work harder. Sometimes it happens. But it was a long inning, long enough to the point where we thought he could keep getting guys out. But we start worrying about him. So, you got to get somebody up."

It was the most runs Beckett has allowed at home this season and the most at home since giving up four to Toronto on Sept. 18, 2010. It was Becketts first loss in a month, since falling in Philadelphia on June 28, and his first loss in nine career starts against the Royals, snapping a five-game winning streak against them.

Thats a pretty good lineup, said catcher Jason Varitek. They swing the bats pretty well.

He wasnt missing by much. Its not like he all of a sudden got wild. Just, we couldnt put either one of Gordon or Maier in the fourth away. But we were just missing, too.

Beckett threw 109 pitches, 72 for strikes. After the fourth inning, he faced just two batters above the minimum, on a Mike Moustakas sixth-inning walk, and a single by Chris Getz leading off the seventh.

The difference between the fourth inning and the others?

They werent hitting balls at guys, Beckett said. With the exception of Butlers ball. He hit that one at that guy sitting up in the stands. Got a couple of hits on balls outer-half instead of the corners. Bad pitches.

The Sox had given Beckett a lead in the third inning, when Jacoby Ellsburys two-run single to right scored Jason Varitek and Yamaico Navarro.

Pretty darn frustrating when your team scores two runs and then you walk the first two guys, Beckett said. Yeah, thats pretty frustrating.

The problem?

Command, Beckett said. Fastball command, breaking ball command, changeup command. I was just kind of all over the place.

I had anormal warm-up. And everything like that. As the game went on it got worse and worse.

Sometimes you make good pitches and they get hit. Sometimes you make bad pitches and they hit them at guys. And thats kind of the story of today, with the exception of one inning.

For the Royals, thats all they needed.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen.

Quotes, notes and stars: Wright 'able to neutralize' top of Orioles lineup

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Quotes, notes and stars: Wright 'able to neutralize' top of Orioles lineup

BALTIMORE -- Quotes, notes and Stars from the Red Sox' 7-2 win over the Orioles.

 

QUOTES

"He was able to neutralize their top half (of the lineup) and that was the biggest thing.'' - John Farrell on Steven Wright.

"He never broke stride, continued in a full-out gait around third base. It was a good heads-up play on his part.'' - Farrell on Mookie Betts scoring all the way from second on a swinging bunt.

"It kind of throws them off because then if I leave one up, I'm hoping the difference in the speed will get them out front.'' - Steven Wright on changing speeds on the knuckleball.

"Yeah, I do. Off the field. Not when I'm at the park, but off the field, I do.'' - Xander Bogaerts, acknowledging that he does think about his ongoing hitting streak.

"It was amazing. Hitting my first home run and putting us ahead three (more) runs, it's awesome.'' - Marco Hernandez on his first major league home run.

 

NOTES:

* Xander Bogaerts extended his hitting streak to 23 games with two doubles.

* Marco Hernandez's three-run homer in the eighth inning was his first major league homer.

* Mookie Betts has now reached in 13 straight games against the Orioles.

* Betts has scored 14 runs in his last 11 games.

* In his last seven games, David Ortiz is 14-for-28 in his last seven games.

* Ortiz has seven homers in his last 12 games at Camden Yards and 12 homers in his last 16 games here.

* Ortiz has homered in each of his last three games, the 18th time in his career that he's done that.

* Steven Wright tossed a career-high 122 pitches.

* Wright became the third Red Sox starter to toss three consecutive complete games on the road since Roger Clemens in 1991-92.

 

STARS:

1) Steven Wright

Wright's third complete game of the season was a gem, with just four hits allowed - just three them into the outfield. He's got a 1.79 ERA on the road this season.

2) Xander Bogaerts

In addition to extending his hitting streak to 23 games, Bogaerts had two doubles and knocked in two runs.

3) Marco Hernandez

Hernandez's first big league homer was a big one, extending what had been a two-run lead to a five-run cushion with a three-run blast in the eighth

 

First impressions of the Red Sox’ 7-2 win over the Orioles

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First impressions of the Red Sox’ 7-2 win over the Orioles

BALTIMORE -- First impressions from the Red Sox' 7-2 win over the Orioles:

* Steven Wright had six 1-2-3 innings among the nine he pitched.

For a brief time in the second, after two were out, Wright battled command. Then, in the fifth, he yielded three straight hits and a sacrifice fly, accounting for the only two runs he allowed.

Otherwise? Wright carved through the Baltimore lineup, facing the minimum number of hitters in six of the nine other innings and one over the minimum in another.

He got a number of weak squibbers - including a couple he fielded himself and of the four hits he allowed, only three left the infield.

* Mookie Betts stole the first Red Sox run with some alert baserunning.

Betts was on second when Xander Bogaerts hit a tapped in front of the mound.

Catcher Caleb Joseph pounced on the ball about 15 feet from home plate, but then stood there after throwing out Bogaerts at first. With home plate unguarded, Betts got to third and alertly kept going, beating the throw home from first baseman Chris Davis.

Betts is the probably the Red Sox' fastest baserunner, but in instances like that one, he showed he's also one of their smartest.

* David Ortiz is a menace at Camden Yards.

There's a reason John Farrell waited to make out the lineup card, hoping that David Ortiz was available after missing Sunday's game with a sore foot. Ortiz usually makes his presence felt here and Monday was no different.

He homered to right to lead off the eighth, giving him seven homers in his last 10 games at Camden Yards and 12 homers in his last 28 games.

If Ortiz played for the Orioles, it's frightening to think what sort of power numbers he could put up playing half the time in a ballpark with an inviting right field porch.

* The Sox have gotten plenty of contributions from bench players.

Josh Rutledge (.830 OPS) has helped out in the infield, with Brock Holt relegated to LF, and more recently, the DL. On Monday, it was Marco Hernandez's turn. Hernandez supplied a three-run homer from the ninth spot in the eighth inning, turning a two-run lead into a five-run advantage.

Their contributions have allowed Farrell to make some moves around the infield, such as Monday's decision to give Hanley Ramirez a day off while shifting Travis Shaw to first.

Sean McAdam can be followed on Twitter @Sean_McAdam.