If I hadn’t known the date, I might have thought it to be several years ago. In Sunday night’s series finale, Josh Beckett looked like the ace he once was while holding the powerful Yankees’ lineup to 2 hits. He shut out New York for 8 innings, walking 1 and striking out 10.
Beckett had his entire arsenal working to near perfection as he kept the Bombers confused at the plate. I struggled to remember the last time I saw his curve break with so much bite. His changeup was a fantastic foil to a live fastball; Beckett needed only 106 pitches to get through the 8 frames. Contrast that to his first start in which nearly as many pitches took him through only 5.
Rotoworld.com had the perfect reaction to the performance: “Where did this come from? Beckett completely shut down a team he posted a 10.04 ERA in five starts against last year.”
Last week, Rotoworld had reported that an anonymous league scout was encouraged by what he saw from Beckett against the Indians. The scout indicated that despite the result, Beckett actually thre very well, and was particularly strong with his change. That assessment proved prophetic on Sunday in what was about as close to a must-win game as it gets in April.
Jonathan Papelbon pitched a perfect ninth for the save. He struck out 2.
Dustin Pedroia had another big night, going 3 for 4 with a walk and a run scored. After going 5 for 26 to start the year, Pedroia erupted against the Yanks, putting together 3 consecutive 3-hit games. He finished the weekend 9 for 13 with a pair of walks, 4 runs scored, and 5 RBI. His season average now sits at .400.
David Ortiz collected 2 hits on Sunday, adding a run and an RBI. Marco Scutaro shook off his early-season woes to go 2 for 2 with 2 RBI.
New York’s 3 baserunners on the night were Mark Teixeira, via the walk, Robinson Cano, and Eric Chavez. Chavez was a replacement for late-scratch Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod sat out with flu-like symptoms. It was probably a good night to be on the bench given how Beckett was dealing.
C.C. Sabathia fought his way through 5.2 innings, somehow allowing only 1 run on 9 hits and 4 walks. He was fortunate that Boston failed to take advantage of early baserunners; the Red Sox regularly had multiple men on against the big lefty. Joba Chamberlain took over, but ended up allowing 2 runs on Scutaro’s 7th-inning double.
Big Papi doubled home Youkilis in the 8th for a final insurance run. It would prove to be unnecessary.
With the victory, Boston is 2-7 on the year and faces a 3-game set with1-8 Tampa beginning Monday. Daisuke Matsuzaka takes on rookie Jeremy Hellickson, Jon Lester gets David Price in Tuesday’s all-ace matchup, and John Lackey meets James Shields on Wednesday. While the Rays would certainly like to see their own season turn around, Boston has to be thinking sweep here. Getting back near .500 would go a long way toward bringing the lineup all the way back to life.