Well, would you look at that! Not only back-to-back gems, but back-to-back wins as well! Is this us turning our entire season around? I’m wary to say, since there have been times when it looked like that might be the case and then it turned out that it wasn’t so much. As I’ve been saying, let’s just be happy with what we’ve got and hope for the best.
It was Beckett this time who, despite his recent struggles and soreness, has delivered. He didn’t pitch a complete game like Lester did, but his performance was of extremely high quality. In fact, it was easily one of his best starts of the year, and he just looked better during this start than he has in others. And it resulted in our fifth straight win in as many quality starts! That’s the longest active winning streak in the American League, believe it or not.
Beckett pitched seven shutout innings during which he gave up four hits, walked two, and struck out nine, a season high so far. He threw ninety-three pitches, sixty of which were strikes. He went one-two-three in the first, second, third. He gave up two singles in the fourth. He walked one in the fifth. He gave up a single and a walk in the sixth. And he gave up one single in the seventh.
He struck out one in the first, the last of which was a changeup that induced a swing-and-miss. He struck out two in the second; the first was a called strike ending with a curveball, and the second was a swinging strike also ending with a curveball. He struck out two in the three; the first was a swinging strike ending with a fastball, and the second was a swinging strike ending with a fastball. He struck out one in the fourth on three pitches that ended with a curveball. He struck out two in the fifth; the first was a foul tip that ended with a cutter, and the second was a swinging strike that ended with a fastball. He didn’t strike out anyone in his last two innings. As you can see his curveball was exceptionally deadly. Interestingly, his strikeouts that ended with fastballs were his longer strikeouts of the night. Still, his mix of pitches, change of speeds, and precision, accuracy, and execution left absolutely nothing to be desired. In addition to his curveball, his changeup, cutter, and fastball were truly excellent. He was even efficient!
Beckett picked up the win, and fortunately Hill and Aceves both were able to pitch with a decent lead. We had two baserunners on in each of the first two innings but failed to do anything with those opportunities. Papi corrected that in a hurry in the third, when he blasted a solo shot into the bullpen with one out. You could tell from the sound of the impact that the ball wasn’t going to stay in the park. In the fourth, after Salty flied out, Ross walked, Nava singled, Ross scored on a double by Aviles, and Nava scored on a groundout by Sweeney. In the fifth, Papi singled and scored on a single by Middlebrooks. (He’d moved to second on a groundout by Gonzalez and then to third on a wild pitch.) We scored our last run in the eighth, when Salty doubled and scored on a double by Aviles.
Thus, we won, five-zip, on a day when it was particularly fitting to do so. Not only was it Beckett’s birthday, which he appropriately celebrated with a performance as winning as the win itself, but it was also Thanks, Wake Day at Fenway; Tim Wakefield was honored in a pregame ceremony and then threw out the first pitch. And who caught that first pitch but none other than Doug Mirabelli himself, right after his own heart in 2006! In 2006, Mirabelli was given a police escort to Fenway so he could catch Wakefield after he was traded back to us from the Padres; yesterday, Don Orsillo, ever the entertaining master of ceremonies, claimed that Mirabelli would not arrive in time due to a flight delay which was obviously untrue, as Mirabelli again arrived in a police car, this time in center field, where the grass contained an enormous Number Forty-Nine, before preparing behind the plate to receive a classic Wakefield knuckleball. (He actually warmed up for it. Incidentally, it would have been a ball.) Wakefield deserved every bit of honor and recognition and applause that he received. As always, it was so good to have him back. And as always, Wakefield, we salute you!