This one, I obviously saw coming. Seeing Beckett start after Lackey is sometimes really funny. You have a model of consistency following a guy who’s become in Dice-K’s absence the model of inconsistency on this team. Beckett is back to his old self again. You see him going out there, and you know the team is going to win.
Beckett made quick work of the Mariners, but his hit count and pitch count were a little high. In seven innings, he allowed one walk and one run on one solo shot. It actually led off his last inning; it was a cutter, and it was the only mistake he made all night. It was a full count, and Tek wanted the cutter away, but it went inside.
He struck out seven. He allowed seven hits on 118 pitches, eighty-one of which were strikes. That means that about sixty-nine of his pitches were strikes. That’s ridiculously high. So the high pitch count doesn’t bother me as much since the ratio of strikes to pitches is the same. Also worth noting is that, aside from the home run, he gave up only one other extra-base hit: a double. The rest were singles.
His only pitch that wasn’t totally amazing was his curveball, and he still threw it for strikes a little more than half the time. Both of his fastballs as well as his cutter were indeed totally amazing. His best pitch was his changeup. About three quarters of the changeups he threw were strikes.
Let’s break down his strikeouts. His first one came in the first inning on a cutter. His second ended the second inning on a changeup. His third was one-two-three; he didn’t post any K’s but induced three consecutive flyouts. His fifth was one-two-three with two K’s; the first led off the inning and ended in a two-seam, and the second ended the inning on a four-seam.
He allowed only four runners on base through his first five innings. He saw his worst jam in the sixth: two singles meant two runners on base in the same inning, who advanced a base on a groundout. He posted one more strikeout after that with a changeup, followed by a flyout to end the inning. His last K, the first out in the seventh right after the solo shot he gave up, was his last K of the day and his only called K. It ended in a two-seam. None of his strikeouts were achieved with only three pitches.
Incidentally, Beckett can thank Youk for the last out of that inning. Beckett induced a ground ball, and Youk had to dive for it and had just enough time to make an off-balance throw to first that was still in time.
Actually, believe it or not, Beckett almost lost. Since the solo shot occurred in the top of the seventh, he left down by one because we had failed to score up to that point. If it weren’t for that solo shot, not only would the game have been a shutout through seven, but as always in baseball, there’s no guarantee that we would have pulled it together in the bottom of the frame. Who knows? Maybe we would have had another supremely long scoreless marathon.
Crawford struck out swinging to start the bottom of the inning. Clearly that was not promising. Reddick flew out to left, and already two outs were on the board.
A quick note about Reddick. He’s clearly ready to assume the role of a starter. Since Drew is another model of consistency on the team, meaning of course that he’s consistently underproductive in every conceivable aspect of the game with the obvious exception of defense, it’s good to see Reddick get some regular playing time. That will increase his sample size, and if he can earn a starting job during the second half of the season in the middle of a run to the playoffs, I’d say he’s got it. Everyone knows it. Theo knows it, Tito knows it, and Drew knows it. One thing you have to admire about Drew, in addition to his defense, is that he’s a quiet guy. He doesn’t get cranky and complain after every single failed at-bat, which would be really bad for the clubhouse. If you had to have a guy on your team as consistently underproductive as Drew, Drew’s demeanor is perfectly suited for that role. Of course, it’s ironic to say that about Reddick after he went 0 for 4 last night, but of course that’s just one game. He almost got us on the board in the fourth; Papi doubled and moved to third on a single by Crawford, but Reddick’s fly ball wasn’t deep enough to allow him to score. He tagged up but was thrown out at home.
Anyway, with two out in the inning, Tek singled. Scutaro doubled, which could have scored Tek had a fan not reached out and taken the ball out of play. In the end it didn’t matter because Ellsbury singled them both in. But still. You never know, so you should never do anything to affect the outcome of the ballgame (unless you’re on the team, and preferably unless it’s to affect it for the better).
Then Seattle made a pitching change, and Pedroia singled to extend his hitting streak to twenty games. Then Seattle made a pitching change, and Gonzalez stepped up to bat. Pedroia stole second, Ellsbury scored on a wild pitch, and Pedroia moved to third on a throwing error. And Gonzalez ended up walking anyway. Youk ended the inning by grounding into a force out.
Bard took the ball from Beckett and did not have a very good eighth. He loaded the bases with nobody out. He gave up a single and a four-pitch walk, and then a sac bunt turned into an infield hit. Luckily he was able to get the three outs after that, on one of which he was extremely lucky, because he missed his location on the deciding pitch of a strikeout. He ended up getting the strikeout, but as Beckett showed, we all know what happens when pitchers make mistakes. Paps’s ninth was much better: a single and steal followed by three outs.
The final score was 3-1, and Beckett walked away a winner after all. An interesting stat to let you know why we shouldn’t be surprised: we have now outscored the opposition 93-33 in the seventh inning. I mean, it makes perfect sense. Either you’ve got a starter out there who’s exhausted or a reliever who hasn’t had a chance to find his rhythm yet. The Mariners shouldn’t be surprised either; they’ve now lost their last fourteen games, which sets a new club record.
Last but most certainly not least, we doff our caps to Tito, who with last night’s game earned his 715th win as our manager and the thousandth win of his managerial career! Here’s to you, Tito. You gave us our first championship in eighty-six years in your first year here. You gave us another one in 2007. You made it through Manny Ramirez and other characters. And you’ve done it all with the utmost class. You’re one of the best ever. Congratulations!