Jason Varitek's head was down. So it was left to the batter, Cliff Floyd, to let him know that there might be trouble on the mound. Varitek hadn't noticed when Josh Beckett's right foot slipped on the mound while he was delivering a pitch in the sixth inning last night.
Though it resulted in a gathering that included manager Terry Francona and assistant trainer Mike Reinold, it didn't result in an injury to the Red Sox ace.
Even though Beckett came out of the game after the inning, having thrown just 92 pitches, it was precautionary. He wouldn't be added to the list of injured Sox that features Daisuke Matsuzaka and David Ortiz, and he picked up the win in a 5-1 decision over the Rays in front of 37,474 at Fenway Park.
But Coco Crisp might be.
With his thumb wrapped and iced after the game, one in which the Sox pushed past the Rays and into first place in the American League East, Crisp demonstrated more anger than pain. So, too, did Rays manager Joe Maddon, with whom Crisp had a shouting match during an eighth-inning pitching change concerning a hard slide into Tampa Bay second baseman Akinori Iwamura earlier in the inning.
It was all missed by Sox manager Terry Francona.
"I went down to go to the bathroom," said Francona after his team's 12th straight win at home. "Every time I leave [bench coach Brad Mills] in charge, he either puts [Kevin Youkilis] in right or something. Coco got his thumb jammed on the [play] before. I missed the rest of it. I was trying to get my zipper up. It wasn't going as fast as I wanted it to."
Crisp had injured the thumb - he called it a "mild sprain" and said there had been no X-rays - on a stolen base in the sixth, when he said shortstop Jason Bartlett put his knee in front of the bag. It was a move that caused Crisp to warn Bartlett he would "show him how I felt about it" if he got on base again.
That precipitated his hard slide on his stolen base try in the eighth, except he went into the other middle infielder, Iwamura. That slide was what angered Maddon.
"I stole second, Bartlett covered the bag, and he put his knee in front of the base where your hand or foot is supposed to go," Crisp said, though he indicated he thought Bartlett was a "good dude." "If your foot goes in there, there's not much chance for danger. Either way as an infielder, it's a little shady or a lot shady to do that. You cover the bag, swipe with the glove, because you can get somebody injured badly by doing that.
"If it continues, then it continues. I'm not going to be the one to initiate the next move."
By that time, the Sox were up by four runs, having scored four times off Tampa Bay starter Edwin Jackson. Three runs came in the third inning, when Crisp singled and later scored on a Jacoby Ellsbury single. Ellsbury then came home on a J.D. Drew ground-rule double, which was followed by an RBI single by Manny Ramírez. The fourth Boston run came when Crisp's sacrifice fly scored Youkilis in the fourth.
Beckett, meanwhile, allowed one run in six innings. Mud in his spikes caused the slip on the mound. With a steady drizzle throughout the game, both the dirt and outfield were damp.
"It was just one of those deals. It scares you more than anything," Beckett said. "A lot of bad things can happen when you do that. I think what happens is throughout the game, we've got two guys that have mud in their spikes pretty consistent all night. At a certain part of the game, you can't get the mud off your cleats anymore because [a mat used to help clean them] is completely filled with mud."
Beckett (6-4) allowed seven hits and no walks and struck out five.
"His location is getting better," said Varitek, who attributed Beckett's comparatively slow start this season to missing most of spring training because of a bad back. "He's able to get to his curveball, get to it instead of it taking two or three pitches. I think it's just a cleanness of his delivery of getting more comfortable out there."
Behind Beckett, the Red Sox did two things that need to happen for them to survive the absence of some of their big names. They hit and they pitched well in relief. With key hits from two candidates for the No. 3 spot in the order, Drew and Youkilis, and impressive outings from Manny Delcarmen, who struck out the side in the seventh, Hideki Okajima, and Craig Hansen, there were good signs.
"We have our big man down and they have their big man down," Crisp said, referring to Ortiz, and the Rays placing slugger Carlos Peña on the disabled list yesterday. "We both have to find somebody else to step up. When your big guys go down that you count on, it always has to be somebody else every different day. Hopefully, that will pick up the slack."
Amalie Benjamin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.