Notes: Beckett gets fourth straight no-decision

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Notes: Beckett gets fourth straight no-decision

By DannyPicard
CSNNE.com

BOSTON -- @font-face font-family: "Times New Roman";p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal margin: 0in 0in 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman"; table.MsoNormalTable font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Times New Roman"; div.Section1 page: Section1; Josh Beckett has allowed only six earned runs in his lastfour starts, but once again was held to a no-decision on Monday night atFenway Park.

In those last four outings Beckett has pitched 25 13 innings,including the seven shutout innings he put together in Bostons 2-1,extra-innings win over the Minnesota Twins on Monday.

Beckett said after the game his defense made him lookbetter than his stuff, but he still allowed zero runson six hits and only one walk, while striking out five in 103 pitches.

It marked the ninth scoreless outing from a Red Sox starterthis season, which is the most in the majors.

He was tremendous, said manager Terry Franconaafter the win. One walk, he really pitched well. Weve come to kind of expectthat, which is good for us. He feels good about himself. Hes throwing a lot ofstrikes with all his pitches. And has been really effective.

I felt like we played great defense, said Beckett. Theyprobably made it look that way. I kept mixing pitches in there but it was astruggle to find my curveball early. I felt like I got away with a fewmistakes. The hardest-hit balls that they hit were at guys.

Beckett, who now has an ERA of 1.99, left the game with a1-0 lead, thanks to an Adrian Gonzalez RBI single to left field in the fifth. But after an eighth inning that saw a Denard Span single, followed byan Alfredo Aceves balk and a two-out, bloop RBI single by Jason Kubel off JonathanPapelbon, Beckett was no longer able to pick up a decision.

But as long as the Red Sox eventually come out on top,Becket said no decisions really dont bother him.

We get paid to win games, and ateam win is way better than me getting a win or a loss or whatever, saidBeckett. Ill finish up 2-1 if we win the rest of my starts. Id be completelyhappy with that. I dont have an arbitration case which frequently hinge on won-loss record to win.

Picking up that win on Monday night was reliever HidekiOkajima, who hadnt seen any game action since May 4.

Okajima threw 43 pitches (27 for strikes) in two innings ofwork, and allowed only two hits while walking two and striking out three.

He had been rested for a few days, which is good, becauseweve leaned on Matt Albers and Daniel Bard a little bit, said Francona. We wanted tostay away from them. He did a good job.

Those guys down in the bullpen, theyre aware of whosavailable and whos not. You didnt see anybody warming up. He knew he had topitch.

I was just making sure that I hit the corners today, andmade sure they didnt hit a home run off me, said Okajima. I think I did agood job.

In between Beckett and Okajima, Aceves and Papelbon blewwhat would have been a 1-0 Red Sox win. They did so in the top of the eighth,when Kubel blooped a single into shallow right-center, just out of the reach ofDustin Pedroia, and scoring Span from second with two outs.

Pap did a good job, said Francona. Pap came in and madegood pitches. That ball, thats their best hitter right now, and he hit a splitthat barely got over Pedeys head. Thats not bad pitching.

Span who scored the the game-tying run got to second because of another Aceves balk, which made him the first Red Sox pitcher to balk in consecutive appearances since John Dopson did it in three straight outings in 1989.

Aceves balk on Monday night came as a result of a bizarrewind-up, which looks as though he decided to pitch from fromthe stretch mid-windup.

Francona came out to argue after the balk call, but saidits something that Aceves needs to stop doing.

First of all, umpire Angel Hernandez, who ejected Francona for arguing an Aceves balk call on Friday night invited me out, which I thought wasnice, said Francona. He invited me out. That was cool. I thought he was maybelike reeling me in to throw me out.

He actually said that Alfredo was kind of going out of thewindup, and hes probably right . . . We were trying to get Aceves attentionon the first pitch, and then when he didnt call it, we thought we were okay.

Weve got to get Aceves to quit doing that. He did it inspring training, and pitching coach Curt Young talked to him. You dont want to invite, orgive somebody a chance to call something. He doesnt need to do that . . . Whenyou do things out of the ordinary, youre kind of opening up a chance forsomebody to call something.

With a third-inning single, Jacoby Ellsbury extended hishit streak to 18 games on Monday night, a stretch in which hes batting .367.

Danny Picard is onTwitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard.

Unlike Wakefield, Wright has helping hands with Red Sox

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Unlike Wakefield, Wright has helping hands with Red Sox

BALTIMORE -- Near the start of his Red Sox career, Tim Wakefield -- who would wind up pitching 17 years for the club and would tie for the most number of wins in franchise history -- was largely on his own.

One of Wakefield's first pitching coaches in Boston, Joe Kerrigan, regarded knuckleballers as little more than freakish performers.

When Wakefield encountered mechanical issues, Kerrigan could offer little assistance. The pitch was unpredictable, and in Kerrigan's mind, so was the pitcher. The same rules that helped Kerigan dissect and analyze a conventional pitcher's issues wouldn't work with Wakefield.

That frustrated both coach and pitcher, as Wakefield was left to fend for himself.

More than once, as Wakefield foundered, Kerrigan essentially told him: "There's nothing I can do to help you; you're on your own.''

Steven Wright has far more at his disposal, and it's one of the reasons Wright has enjoyed a run of consistency that often eluded Wakefield. There's help available, assistance that Wright readily takes full advantage of.

If throwing a knuckleball hasn't exactly developed into a science, it's certainly far more advanced than it was in 1995, when Wakefield arrived in Boston.

In the middle of a season that has seen him post an ERA of 2.45 and toss a league-best three complete games, Wright has has developed his game fully.

He regularly changes speeds with the knuckler, adding one more complicating factor to an already mystifying pitch.

Depending on the conditions, the hitter, and the score, Wright can either add or subtract to the velocity of his signature pitch. On Monday, when he limited the Orioles to two runs on four hits in a 7-2 Memorial Day victory, he offered knuckleballs as slow as 59 mph and fastballs as fast as 83 mph.

"I like it,'' said Wright, "especially against a lineup like [the Orioles]. They're a very aggressive team. In that inning they scored the two runs (the fifth), I kind of got caught up in the same speed. So I kind of went out there after that and concentrated on not throwing too many at the same speed. It kind of throws them off, because I'm hoping that if I leave one up, the difference in the speed will get them out front.''

But perhaps Wright's biggest step forward this season -- the first in which he began the season as a full-time starter in the rotation -- is the ability to detect and correct flaws within a game, sometimes within an inning. Again, this stands in stark contrast to Wakefield, who was notoriously streaky. When Wakefield was trending in a positive fashion, both he and the club could only hope that it continued. When he hit a rut, however, there was telling how long he would scuffle, unable to reverse his downhill slide.

Wright has no such issues. He can often tell -- and if he doesn't, pitching coach Carl Willis can help -- when his delivery has gone askew. Better yet, he knows what he needs to do immediately to correct it.

"Absolutely,'' agreed Wright. "It's my fifth year doing it and I've worked tirelessly with Wake and [bullpen coach Dana Levangie] and Carl and that's one thing we've concentrated on, is staying within that delivery. Because it's all about staying relaxed and repeating my delivery -- especially for me, but really, any pitcher. Because I'm getting more years, more reps, it's become a little more easier to make an adjustment pitch-to-pitch.''

"He's shown that [ability] in a number of starts this year,'' said manager John Farrell. "That's a testament to someone who knows more about himself, to have those checkpoints.''

Ironically, it was Wakefield himself -- who got so little help for periods of his own career -- who offered Wright a key checkpoint last season.

"He had me move my hands back,'' recalled Wright. "What it does is, it helps me lock my shoulders in a place so I don't get rotational. That's one of the biggest things because if I started feeling that I'm getting rotational, then there's something off.

"It could be a number of things, but I feel like that's the biggest adjustment that I made. It's a small one, but it's huge in keeping everything within reason. Because I'm not a power pitcher, I don't need to reach back and get something (extea in terms of velocity) so when I do throw a fastball, it's the same mechanical look.''

Wright seemed on the verge of becoming undone in the second inning Monday. With two outs, he walked two hitters, allowed an infield single and loaded the bases.

But from the dugout, Willis noticed that Wright was rushing with his delivery.

''I had a hard time [noticing] it,'' said Wright, "but he could definitely see it. We work tirelessly, especially when Wake is around, to try to find some mechanical things so Carl can help me out if I need it. Same thing with [catchers Ryan] Hanigan and [Christian] Vazquez -- they see it too, because I'm throwing to them all the time.''

All of which has Wright among the game's ERA leaders and tied in the complete game category with the likes of Chris Sale, Johnny Cueto and Clayton Kershaw.

"I definitely sometimes pinch myself," he said, "like, 'Man, is this real?' "