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When Josh Beckett toes the rubber, you pay attention.  When he pitches, he commands.  He dominates.  Every fifth day is a legitimate possibility of a no-hitter.  It’s just him, the ball, and the enemy in the batter’s box.  And his will to win.  Which usually prevails.  Deep down, the batter knows he has no chance.  Beckett ruins everything for him.  Beckett is 6-0 after a Sox loss.  He now has two shutouts on the year.  Last night he won the 100th game of his career.  A complete-game shutout of the Kansas City Royals.  Three hits.  No walks.  Seven strikeouts. Ninety-four pitches.  Take those three hits away and he’s got himself a perfect game.

Josh Beckett, Number 19: taking care of business since 2001.

This is the gentleman who prevented the New York Yankees from winning the World Series in 2003.  This is the gentleman who represented a sure-fire win in the postseason in 2007.  This is the gentleman who should’ve won the Cy Young that year as Major League Baseball’s only winner of twenty games.  And this is the gentleman who will pitch us deep into October.

Josh Beckett, ladies and gentlemen.

Obviously, he’ll take the win, improving to eleven and three, but the win had to come from somewhere.  The final score was 6-0, and four starters had multi-hit games: Pedroia went two for four (he’s now had seven multi-hit games in his last nine games played, including three three-hitters), Youk went two for five, Baldelli went two for five, and Aaron Bates went three for five with a nifty grab at first in the top of the fifth.  RBIs courtesy of Youk, Papi, Tek, Baldelli, and Bates.  Ellsbury made his fortieth theft of the season, which is only half over.  Bay recorded five plate appearances without an official at-bat but reached base five times.  He walked three times in his first three appearances.  Each walk was four pitches.  In the fifth, he was hit by the first pitch of his at-bat.  In the eighth, he was hit by a pitch on a 2-0 count.  Basically he failed to see a strike all night.

Dustin Pedroia won’t be going to St. Louis.  He won’t be playing in the All-Star Game.  His wife, Kelli, was hospitalized on Monday after going into labor early so after talking about it with Tito he decided to stay home and be with her.  Family first for the kid.  Ultimately, good call.

So we have that win that we wanted, and we cruise into the All-Star break in a good place.  We’ve won our last three games.  Our lead over New York, who just got swept by the Angels, is now three games.  Our All-Star contingent is ready to roll out, and the team as a whole will get a good four-day rest which, if you ask me, we desperately need.  Just ask the bullpen.  After that, we visit Toronto (Clay Buchholz will be starting the first game on Friday) and Texas, then come back for another homestand.  We play Oakland at the end of the month, so Nomar will probably be back here.  Either way the schedule’s pretty good.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis
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I’m happy we won.  I’m very happy we won.  Nothing like administering to the O’s a taste of their own medicine.  We were down, 5-1, through eight.  Pedroia plated Drew with a double in the third but that had been it.  Meanwhile, we were in that position because Beckett pitched seven, gave up five runs on six hits with two walks, five strikeouts, and two home runs.  Both were leadoff solo shots, one to Luke Scott in the second and one to Ty Wigginton in the fourth.  This start smacked of last season, when he’d have low walks, decent strikeouts, and give up a lot of long balls.  Luckily, he went deep and gave the bullpen a rest.  So basically he did his job but he didn’t do it well.  He put us in a position where a comeback was necessary, which was something I personally didn’t appreciate.  It’s Beckett.  He wasn’t supposed to do that.  And if I know Beckett, I know he’s seething right now.  But in times like those you find out what tricks the lineup has up its sleeve.

We scored four runs in the top of the ninth.  We scored one in the top of the eleventh.  We won, 6-5.  We put the Orioles in their place, we took the series, and we cruise into our off-day today with our heads held high.

In the ninth, Youk clobbered a two-run shot over the head of Nick Markakis.  Then Baldelli stroked a two-run single past Robert Andino to tie it with two out in the inning.  Bard and Ramirez put up zeroes.  And in the top of the eleventh, Julio Lugo hit another ball past Andino to plate what would become the winning run.  Julio Lugo.  Who knew? And Paps put up the last zero to lock it up.

So Beckett gets a no-decision, Bard pitched the eighth and ninth, Ramirez pitched the tenth and gets the win, and Paps pitched the eleventh and gets the save.  And it was a clean save.  Another one-two-three inning.  His twentieth save of the season, and enough to surpass Bob Stanley’s record.  He now stands alone at the top of the Red Sox all-time list.  Congratulations! Rough patch or no rough patch, overall he’s still the best closer in the game, and he earned each and every one of those saves.  Overall, the bullpen did a pretty nice job of apologizing for the badness on Tuesday.  Retired twenty-four straight Orioles yesterday.  Not too bad.

Our lead over the Yankees stays the same.  We have the day off today and tomorrow we’re playing Seattle.  Wakefield at Hernandez.  This game is more important than you’d think.  We want to go into the All-Star break with as much momentum as possible, and that starts right now.  We want to start this series on the right foot.  And for Wake, he needs to pitch well tomorrow to affirm his legitimate contention for a spot on the All-Star roster.  Between you and me, he’ll probably get one.  Or at least he should.

By the way, All-Star voting ends tonight at midnight.  Youk is currently leading Teixeira, but Pedroia the Destroyah is just barely behind Ian Kinsler.  We know who really should be starting at second for the American League in St. Louis.  Dustin Pedroia can’t not be an All-Star.  Vote and help bring him there.  You can find a link to the All-Star ballot to the right of this page.

Reuters Photo

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We won, 0-1.  Tim Wakefield pitched six shutout innings.  Only three hits, all of them singles.  No Brave got past first on his watch.  Only one walk.  One strikeout.  Wrap it up.  Not to mention the fact that he got his first hit since 2005, something about which I was not happy.  Think about it.  We’re in Atlanta.  In the summer.  It was one hundred degrees.  You don’t want your pitcher standing around or running the bases in that kind of heat.  But apparently Wake was completely unphased.  We scored that run in the sixth inning on an RBI single by Kotsay (Youk, who finished his day two for three, scored the run), so Wake only pitched with a lead for half a frame.  The fact that he was able to keep the Braves at bay with no score in the game is very impressive.  And very timely.  If he pitches like this for the rest of his starts before the All-Star break, he’s going to St. Louis for sure.

But this wasn’t just a game.  This wasn’t even just a really great game.  This wasn’t just a solidification of Wake’s potential All-Star appearance, or a blatant message that unfortunately Javier Vazquez didn’t pitch too badly, either.  With this win, Wake becomes just one of three American League pitchers to reach double digits in the win column this season.  With this start, Wake tied Roger Clemens for most career starts by a pitcher in Red Sox letters; he now stands at 382.  He’s been pitching for us since 1995.  That’s a lot of starts.  And that’s a lot of seasons; his fifteen seasons with us are the most for any pitcher.  Speaks volumes about his consistency and ability to work through innings and rack up wins.  Even if he sometimes infuriates us every once in a while.  His 174 wins make him good for third on the Red Sox all-time list; eighteen more and he’d reach Cy Young and Roger Clemens.  And that’s entirely within his reach.  If he continues at his current rate, he’ll absolutely get there by the end of next season, and he might win twenty games this season and become the oldest pitcher ever to do so.  And if he does in fact fly out to St. Louis, he’d be the second-oldest first-timer in the history of the sport, behind Satchel Paige.  To be completely honest, the way things work in Boston, if he continues tearing through his starts like this he’ll go.  It’s basically sure-fire that he’ll go.  We take care of our own in Boston, and he deserves it.  He’ll go.

One more thing.  He’s doing it all with a torn labrum in his shoulder.  Dirt dog all the way.

Delcarmen and Masterson took care of the seventh and eighth, and despite allowing a double, Paps collected a save after finishing the ninth.  That was his eighteenth of the season and 131st of his career, one shy of Bob Stanley’s franchise record.  So give it a few days and he’ll break it.  His 131 saves are also tied for fifth-most by a pitcher in his first five seasons.  Depending on how many saves he finishes the season with, he could move up considerably on that list.

In other news, the Bruins picked five in the NHL Entry Draft: forward Jordan Caron in the first round, and defenseman Ryan Button, forward Lane Macdermid, forward Tyler Randell, and forward Ben Sexton in the second round.

Penny at Tommy Hanson this afternoon.  I love Interleague.  That’s all I have to say about it.

AP Photo

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Through seven, last night’s game was incredibly close.  Scary close.  Uneasily close.  These are the Washington Nationals, but instead of lighting them up, we were trading runs back and fourth.  They’d score one, then we’d score one, and after seven we were only leading, 4-3.  It was very uncomfortable. I was looking at our team and had no idea who they were.  We were up on the Nationals that inning, but if we continued to trade runs, who knew who’d come out on top?

Then came the eighth inning, and we scored six runs and tacked on another one in the ninth for good measure.  We won, 11-3.  Nuff ced.  Needless to say, that’s more like it!

Pedroia went three for six and scored twice.  He’s back, and I mean really back.  Drew walked twice and scored.  Youk went two for five with two RBIs, two runs, and a base on balls.  Tek batted in two.  But then men of the hour were unquestionably Jason Bay and Jacoby Ellsbury.  Bay led off the second inning with a solo home run, his nineteenth of the season, practically making official his trip to St. Louis.  He’s currently leading all outfielders in votes.  Bay ended up going four for six with three RBIs and three runs.  That’s huge.  That’s what you get when you turn Bay loose against the worst team in baseball, which also just happens to be in the National League.  He’s seventh in the Majors in home runs and second in RBIs.  Bats cleanup for a reason.  I remember when he first came on board that Tito specifically didn’t want him batting cleanup because he didn’t want him to feel that he was replacing anybody.  Very smart move.  And just look at him now.  And how about Jacoby Ellsbury.  Four for four.  Perfect at the plate by hits alone.  Add to that a walk, three RBIs, a run, and a steal, and it makes you wonder why he won’t be joining Bay in St. Louis.  He’s batting .311.

For his part, Penny pitched a standard Penny-esque outing.  Five and two-thirds, three runs on six hits, three walks, six K’s.  We used four relievers to get it done; Delcarmen got the win, Okajima got a hold, and Saito and Bard took care of the eighth and ninth.  Extended rest works wonders for the bullpen.

By the way, Coco Crisp will miss the rest of the season after he has right shoulder surgery on Wednesday.  I’m telling you, with Ellsbury on his game and Ramon Ramirez (mostly) pitching to perfection, that trade keeps looking better and better.  I’d say it was a good move for all involved.  Especially us.  Especially in light of this.  I say this all the time, but it’s true: Theo is a genius.

Tonight it’s Jon Lester at Craig Stammen.  I’d say Lester’s looking to bounce back from his last outing, but he didn’t pitch badly at all.  That was that 2-1 rain-out loss to the Marlins.  Lester’s on the fast track to being his old self again.  He’s nearly there.  Still has some minor consistency issues (he did give up eight hits in that loss), but within a few starts I’d say he’ll be good as new.  And tomorrow is John Smoltz’s debut in Boston letters.  Again, nothing like a contest with the worst team in baseball to build up your confidence.  And since Smoltz pitched in the National League not too long ago, who knows? There may be some pop to his bat yet.

AP Photo

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