Notes: Beckett leaves game with neck stiffness


Notes: Beckett leaves game with neck stiffness

By MaureenMullen

BOSTON When Josh Beckett didn't come back for the seventh inning Thursday night with a 2-1 lead, despite throwing just 83 pitches, alarm bells went off in Red Sox Nation.

After losing two starting pitchers (John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka) to the disabled list already this week, the Sox couldn't afford to lose Beckett. Especially considering the way he had been pitching of late.

It wasn't an injury, however. Beckett had tightness in his neck, and the Sox played it cautiously by removing him from the game.

His neck got stiff and thats not something to play around with, said manager Terry Francona. Especially on the side with his throwing shoulder . . . He got stiff and he was getting stiffer and thats not something to mess around with.

Yeah, it was tough to get loose, Beckett said. I battled through the first few innings. I actually went down to the batting cage behind the dugout in the third and the fifth and was throwing in between innings because I was just trying to get loose. It never would loosen up. I think it was just a little muscle spasm in there. I dont think its anything serious at all, but we want to be cautious, especially in the situation were in right now with starters.

Beckett said he doesnt expect to need treatment on his neck, just some muscle relaxers and stuff like that. Were just trying to calm it down. I think everythings fine.

Through six innings, Beckett gave up one run on five hits and two walks with three strikeouts, lowering his ERA from 1.75 already an American League-best to 1.73. The run he gave up to the Tigers, in the second inning, snapped his career-best streak of 19 13 scoreless innings.

I got great defense is what I had, he said. There was a lot of balls I was trying to go away with lefties and try to drag some of them back to the middle of the plate. Right fielder J.D Drew, it was a darn track meet out there for him. I know thats tough with the turf the way it is.

Theyre a good lineup. You take outs however you can get them. I felt like they were extra aggressive and I felt like sometimes that played into my deal. Maybe it was just the hitters that came up in the situations but I got some ground balls when I needed to get some ground balls. J.D. was really busy out there.

Until he left the game, Beckett matched Tigers ace Justin Verlander pitch for pitch. Verlander went eight innings, allowing three runs on six hits, no walks, and nine strikeouts.

I try not to put too much emphasis on who the other pitcher is, especially in the American League where I dont have to hit against him, Beckett said. If I had to hit against him, it wouldnt be fun at all. It would be fun for him, but it wouldnt be fun for me. But I thought our guys, they did a good job. I thought they actually got his pitch count up there but with him being who he is, he gets to go back out there for the seventh and eighth inning.

For Beckett, it was his fifth no-decision in nine starts this season. He has just one decision a win in New York on May 14 in his last six starts. He has not lost since his first start of the year, in Cleveland on April 5. Six of his nine starts this season are quality starts.

He was okay, said catcher Jason Varitek. It was a battle for him today but he was strong. He was probably as strong as hes been on the mound in quite a while. It was just a fight for him getting the ball east and west. And he just battled with one run in six innings is pretty good.

But he received just two runs of support Thursday, the sixth time this season that he has received two or fewer runs of support while he was in the game.

Although Daniel Bard allowed the Tigers to tie the game on back-to-back home runs by Brennan Boesch and Miguel Cabrera in the eighth, the Sox offense pulled out the walkoff win. Jonathan Papelbon earned the W with a scoreless ninth, getting out of a bases-loaded one-out jam with two strikeouts, including Miguel Cabrera, swinging at a 97-mph fastball, for the final out.

Its some of the most electric stuff that you see, Beckett said of Papelbons ninth inning. Nobody throws a fastball like that, with the explosions at the end.

The six straight wins mark the Sox longest win streak since last June 1520.

None of the four starters in the brief four-game series -- Clay Buchholz and Beckett for the Sox, Phil Coke and Verlander for the Tigers -- earned a decision in the brief four-game series, despite pitching a combined total of 28 innings and giving up only four earned runs. Both games were decided in the Red Sox final at-bats, with the Sox winning both.

Kevin Youkilis went 1-for-3, extending his hit streak to seven games. He's batting .346 (9-for-26) in that span.

David Ortiz went 3-for-4, his 13th multihit game of the season. His seventh-inning home run off Verlander was his eighth of the season, fourth in his last eight games, and sixth in 15 games, good for second on the Sox.

The back-to-back home runs Bard allowed to Boesch and Cabrera in the eighth marked just the second time in his career he has given up two home runs in one game. He also allowed back-to-back homers on Aug. 9, 2009, to Johnny Damon and Mark Teixeira in Yankee Stadium.

Francona said Matsuzaka,placed on the DL with a right elbow sprain, has not yet had a secondopinion,but everythingsbeen sent to his representatives agentScott Boras and all that type ofstuff.

Francona wasasked if Papelbons fastball is reminiscent of the one hethrew 2007 and 2008. Papelbon had 37 and 41 saves, respectively inthose seasons, with ERAs of 1.85 and 2.34.

I dontthink I disagree with that, Francona said. I guess I look more at hiscommand. I guess there were times last year when he didnt quite knowwhere it was going and you had to reel him back in. I think hes gotgood finish on it but I think his locations been reallygood.

I think Pap competes about as good asanybody. The bigger the moment Paps got a pretty good way ofslowing things down. I know he sort of beats to his own tune but whenthe games on the line its not going to speed up on him. I haventseen him . . . how do you call a carousel or a tilt-a-whirl this way andthat way. I've seen him not coming off the ball. Last year a lot of hisappearances you'd see him come in and go ball one, ball two, ball threewith a fastball up on the arm side. I haven't seen that a lot this yearand thatsgood.

Francona spent one season with the Red Sox' next opponent, the Cubs, in1986, appearing in 86 games as a firstbasemanoutfielder.

It wasnt very good, he said.I always seemed like I hit at a quarter-to-six as a pinch-hitter, back when the Cubs played mostly day games. It would be about theeighth inning, and there was always shadows. I lived north of the cityso I fought the traffic in, fought the traffic home and didn't get verymany hits.

Its a cool ballpark, though. I thinkback then it seemed like the worse we played, the more they liked theloveable Cubs. I havent been there much lately, but Im not sure thatfeeling is still quite there as much. I think they're looking to win.Harry Caray that was enough. People enjoyed a home game and sittingin the bleachers that was enough. I dont know if it isanymore.

Asked to compare the two ancient ballparks,Fenway and Wrigley, Francona chose his currenthome.

I always like Fenway a little better. Thedugouts at Wrigley are hard to watch a game. You're really stuck inthere really hard. I love Wrigley. I think all the new ballparks aretrying to get the feeling of Fenway and Wrigley, with just the newamenities. But I always liked Fenwaybetter.

Former Mass. Gove Paul Cellucci, who has been diagnosed with ALS, waspart of the pregame ceremony in recognition of a fundraising initiativewith UMass Medical School(

The Red Sox and Cubs will wear replica 1918 uniforms in Saturdays game, commemorating the last time the Cubs visitedFenway for the 1918 World Series.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter athttp:twitter.commaureenamullen

Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez, 24, killed in boating accident


Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez, 24, killed in boating accident

MIAMI  — Jose Fernandez, the ace right-hander for the Miami Marlins who escaped Cuba to become one of baseball's brightest stars, was killed in a boating accident early Sunday morning. Fernandez was 24.

Authorities said Fernandez was one of three people killed in a boat crash off Miami Beach.

Chief Petty Officer Nyxolyno Cangemi told The Associated Press that a Coast Guard patrol boat spotted an overturned boat at 3:30 a.m. on a jetty near Government Cut. The bodies were discovered a short time later.

In the statement, the Marlins say they are "devastated by the tragic loss of José Fernández. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this very difficult time."

"Hands down one of my favorite guys to watch pitch! He brought nothing but intensity and passion," Red Sox pitcher David Price said on Twitter early Sunday.

Because the boat was on a jetty, the Coast Guard notified Miami-Dade police, which turned the investigation over to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Fernandez was on a 32-foot vessel that had a "severe impact" with a jetty, said FWC's Lorenzo Veloz.

"We are stunned and devastated," Major League Baseball said in a statement.

City of Miami Fire-Rescue workers were seen carrying bodies, draped and on stretchers, at the Coast Guard station after sunrise Sunday. The names of the other two individuals are being withheld pending notification of relatives, the Coast Guard said.

Fernandez was a two-time All-Star who went 38-17 in his four seasons with the Marlins, winning the NL's Rookie of the Year award in 2013. The native of Santa Clara, Cuba became a U.S. citizen last year and was enormously popular in Miami.

He tried to defect from Cuba at least three times — landing in jail after one of those unsuccessful tries — before eventually getting to the U.S. and going to high school in Tampa, Florida. The Marlins drafted him in 2011 and Fernandez was in the majors two years later.

The Marlins' game Sunday at home against the Atlanta Braves has been cancelled.

"I'm still in shock," former Marlins player Gaby Sanchez said on Twitter. "The world has lost a remarkable person. You will be missed and my heart goes out to the Fernandez family."

© 2016 Associated Press.

Red Sox secure playoff with 6-4 win over Rays


Red Sox secure playoff with 6-4 win over Rays

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Dustin Pedroia hit his fourth career grand slam to help Rick Porcello get his major league-leading 22nd win, and the Boston Red Sox clinched a playoff berth by beating the Tampa Bay Rays 6-4 Saturday night for their 10th consecutive win.

Boston maintained a 5 1/2-game lead over Toronto for the division title and ensured no worse than the AL's second wild card. While the Red Sox technically have a magic number of one, the Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles play each other three times in the season's final week - meaning only one of them can win match Boston's 91 wins.

Among the other wild-card contenders, only Detroit can reach 91 victories.

Pedroia stopped an 0-for-17 skid with a single in the sixth and gave Boston a 6-3 lead with a seventh-inning drive off Danny Farquhar.

Porcello (22-4) gave up three runs, eight hits and struck out nine over 6 1/3 innings. He just missed getting his 12th consecutive start of seven or more innings and three runs or fewer, which would have moved him past Cy Young (1904) and Pedro Martinez (2000) for the longest stretch during the same season in franchise history.

Craig Kimbrel, the fifth Boston reliever, reached 30 saves for the sixth straight season despite allowing Logan Forsythe's solo homer in the ninth.

Brad Miller hit a two-run double in a three-run second that put Tampa Bay up 3-1 and gave him 80 RBIs.

Tampa Bay threatened in the second but failed to score due to two nice defensive plays. Pedroia made a throw from just in front of the outfield grass at second base on Mikie Mahtook's grounder to get Corey Dickerson at the plate. Third baseman Brock Holt made a solid play along the line on Alexei Ramirez's grounder and threw him out at first to end the inning.