Notes: Third straight strong start for Beckett

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Notes: Third straight strong start for Beckett

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Three starts do not a season make, but this much is known about Josh Beckett in 2011: he looks a lot more like the Josh Beckett who dominated hitters in 2007 and 2009 then he did last year.

Beckett didn't get the win in the Red Sox' 4-2, 11-inning victory over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on Thursday night, but that took nothing away from his performance: eight innings, two runs allowed on three hits, and 125 pitches, the second-most he's ever thrown in a game.

"I made pitches when I needed to -- except for one,'' said Beckett.

That one, a 3-and-2 pitch to Torii Hunter with a man on in the seventh, resulted in a game-tying homer for the Angels. Until then, Beckett's only hit allowed was a Baltimore chop by Erick Aybar to lead off the sixth. Beckett had held the Angels hitless through the first five innings.

In his last three starts, Beckett had thrown 23 innings and allowed just three earned runs. His ERA for the season stands at 1.93. Thursday night, he faced three batters over the minimum.

"It's nice to have confidence in all my pitches,'' said Beckett. "I have that right now.''

"He was,'' concluded Terry Francona, "tremendous.''

So tremendous, in fact, that Francona sent Beckett out for the eighth after he was at 108 pitches.

Francona noted that all of the Red Sox pitchers are working with an extra day of rest and Beckett will get another before his next turn, thanks to Monday's off-day in Baltimore. The fact that the the team's three best relievers -- Daniel Bard, Bobby Jenks and Jonathan Papelbon -- had all pitched Wednesday in Oakland also influenced his decision to send Beckett back out.

"From the first pitch of the game,'' the manager obsereved, "he threw all of his pitches for strikes . . . He pitched like he's supposed to.''

The Sox seemed to win almost in spite of themselves, stranding 15 baserunners and going just 2-for-18 with runners in scoring position.

Boston had 10 walks and 8 hits and still managed only four runs in 11 innings.

"I'll take 15 runners stranded with a win,'' said Adrian Gonzalez, who snapped a 2-2 tie in the 11th with a run-scoring double. "It doesn't matter how many hits you get or how many you strand if you come away with a win.''

Gonzalez hasn't had the kind of impact he might have liked through the first 18 games. He has just one homer and before Thursday night, he was tied for fourth on the team in RBI.

But with the game on the line Thursday, Gonzalez came through, roping a double to right to plate J.D. Drew, snapping a 2-2 tie in the top of the 11th.

"I was looking for a ball up,'' he recounted, "just looking for a sacrifice fly. Angels reliever Rich Thompson threw a cutter up-and-in and it stayed flat and I was able to get to it.''

Gonzalez labeled the at-bat ''the situation you want to be in, especially in extra innings.''

Kevin Youkilis left the game in the middle of the second inning after fouling a ball of his left shin during a first-inning at-bat.

He underwent x-rays, which were negative. Youkilis will be re-evaluated again Friday.

"He's pretty sore,'' said Francona after the game.

The injury forced Francona to insert Marco Scutaro at short and move Jed Lowrie, who had started the game at short, to third.

It also meant that Scutaro was the team's cleanup hitter for the rest of the night.

Dustin Pedroia first rolled, then jammed his surgically-repaired left foot into the second-base bag in the third on a successful steal attempt.

"It was kind of like a stinger,'' said Pedroia. "It took a couple of minutes to get the feeling back in there.''

Trainer Mike Reinold and Francona came out to check on Pedroia, who remained in the game.

Pedroia reached base five times in six plate appearances with three singles and two walks.

Jason Varitek's struggles continued at the plate. He was 0-for-3 with three strikeouts (plus a walk and a hit batsman) to drop his average to .043. He has just one hit in 23 at-bats with nine strikeouts.

When asked about his slump, Varitek, utilizing some gallows humors, responded in mock outrage: "I'm freaking locked in!''

Turning more serious, he noted that he was "a little too fast left-handed. It's getting in there and settling down. Fortunately, I can help us win games in other ways.

"I can't hit much worse. I've never hit this bad. I need to use my eyes a little better.''

"If we're shaking hands after a game,'' said Francona, "Varitek did enough.''

While unwilling to say his view of the catchingsituation has changed any, Francona said before the game he also plans to use Saturday in the thirdgame of the series with Daisuke Matsuzaka pitching.

"Iwanted to catch both Varitek and Jarrod Saltalamacchia two games eachhere,'' said Francona. "Tek's done such a good job with Beckett.''

Varitek will also catch Daisuke Matsuzaka Saturday.

Saltalamacchiahas struggled defensively, unable to slow other teams from running onhim. The Angels, of course, are a particularly aggressive team on thebasepaths.

Francona added that he'll have to monitor Varitek's catching load due to the captain's age (39).

"That'ssomething we need to think about,'' said Francona. "He's not 70 and heworks hard at being in good shape. But I just want to make sure he'snot being asked to do too much.''

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Quotes, notes and stars: Pedroia was focused on winning, not streak

Quotes, notes and stars: Pedroia was focused on winning, not streak

BOSTON -- Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox’ 8-3 win over the Royals:

QUOTES

“I hadn’t really thought about it. Trying to win games. It’s late in the year . . . I don’t really have time to sit back and pat myself on the back for anything. We’re trying to win as a team.” - Dustin Pedroia on the importance of the 11-for-11 stretch in his career.

“It’s fun. It’s why you go to work in December, January, February. It’s all the work you put in up to this point. It feels good to go out there and get the results you expect to get, especially against a team like [the Royals] who is hot as they are right now.” - David Price on pitching meaningful games with a playoff-like atmosphere.

“Yeah, yeah we [knew about the streak] . . .  It was an awesome roll and it was fun to see . . . Every time I went up to hit, I let Salvador Perez know.” - Xander Bogaerts on Dustin Pedroia’s 11-for-11 streak.

“I think we’ve been able to handle velocity very well. We’ve got good bat-speed in out lineup, and we’re able to handle that.” - John Farrell on the offense thriving against good pitching.

 

NOTES

* David Ortiz played in his 1,000th game at Fenway Park, becoming the fifth player to do so.

* Ortiz also became the first player ever to play 2,000 games as the designated hitter.

* Mookie Betts scored his 100th run of the season off his 29th home run of the year, joining Fred Lynn, Johnny Pesky and Ted Williams as the only players to reach 100 runs before turning 24.

* The Red Sox hit back-to-back home runs for the fourth time this season with Betts and Hanley Ramirez going yard in the fifth.

* With his 2-for-4 day at the plate, Jackie Bradley Jr. improved to 34-for-94 (.362) batting ninth.

 

STARS

1) Dustin Pedroia

Pedroia finished 4-for-5, extending his streak to 11 hits in 11 at-bats, finishing one shy of tying the MLB record.

2) David Price

Price logged his fourth straight quality start with his six-inning, two-run start. He also dropped his ERA below 4.00 for the first time since his Opening Day start with Boston.

3) Salvador Perez

Perez finished 2-for-3 with two home runs. Saturday marked only the second multi-home run game of his career.

First impressions: Price, Pedroia lead Red Sox to 8-3 win over Royals

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First impressions: Price, Pedroia lead Red Sox to 8-3 win over Royals

BOSTON -- First impressions from the Red Sox 8-3 win over the Kansas City Royals:

 

David Price has found a groove.

Price finally brought his ERA below 4.00.

He’d been about that mark since his second start of the season. Twenty-six starts later, he finally reached the mark.

Saturday’s start marked Price’s fourth-straight quality start. Price will soon eclipse the 200-strikeout, reaching 186 K’s with his seven-strikeout performance.

Although the lefty hasn’t been at his best throughout much of the year, he’s caught fire of late.

Possibly at the most important part of the season, too.

 

Dustin Pedroia just missed making history, can’t buy an out.

Boston’s second baseman entered Saturday with seven hits in his last seven at-bats. He stretched that streak to 11-for-11 with a 4-for-4 game.

He had the chance to go 12-for-12 in the eighth, but weakly grounded into a 4-6-3 double play.

He’s also the first Red Sox player with three straight four-hit games at Fenway Park since 1913.

Boston’s second baseman continues to prove that his struggles in recent years were directly related to injuries, not diminishing performance.

 

The offense passed a big test.

It might’ve appeared that Danny Duffy was a middle-of-the-road pitcher with the way Red Sox hitters tattooed him in Saturday’s win.

But the right only had one loss in 19 starts, with a 2.66 ERA (2.61 as a starter).

Between the long balls and Dustin Pedroia’s incessant ways of late, they ballooned his ERA to 3.01.

A respectable number, still, but a jump of nearly a half of a run.

 

Sandy Leon’s in a minor cold spell.

Possibly the greatest story of Boston’s 2016 offense, Leon hasn’t had too many struggles along the way.

But after finishing 0-for-4 Saturday night, he’s only 2-for-21 (.095) in his last five games.

Saturday also marked only the third time all season where he was held hitless in back-to-back games.

These things happen to everyone, but it was starting to look like Leon didn’t fall under the category of “everyone.”