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Beckett gave to the cause

By Julian Benbow
Globe Staff / April 19, 2009
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The most important thing Josh Beckett did last night was come back out after a rough fifth inning and toss a clean sixth.

The Red Sox had used five relievers during Friday night's comeback win over Baltimore, and three days earlier they had used six in Oakland. A complete game from Tim Wakefield Wednesday gave the bullpen a blow, but if manager Terry Francona could save a few arms this weekend he'd take it.

Beckett said he wasn't necessarily pitching with that in the back of his mind, but he said, "Going into a game you realize certain situations. You watch games that lead up to your start . . . Obviously you like to get deeper into the game, with as much bullpen as we've had to use over the last five or six days."

So, he shook off a rough fifth. He dusted off the Cesar Izturis bunt single, the Brian Roberts double, the two walks after being ahead in the count, and Aubrey Huff's two-run double that led to an extra run because of a fumbled cutoff.

He went out and threw a quick sixth - ground out, ground out, fly out - and left the game with his team up, 6-4. Three pitchers and three relatively drama-free innings later, the score remained the same and the Red Sox had their fifth win of the season.

"You see a lot of teams, if you get into the bullpen fifth, sixth inning, some crooked numbers start to get put up," Francona said.

Hideki Okajima, Takashi Saito, and Jonathan Papelbon all pitched orderly innings, with Papelbon picking up his fourth save.

"With Beckett giving us the sixth, it set up real well for those guys to each have an inning apiece and they got done what they needed to," said Francona.

Beckett pointed to particular pitches. "Made a mistake to Aubrey Huff," he said. "Fastball up out over the plate, you can't make mistakes like that to good hitters."

He pointed to the free passes. "I've got to cut down on the walks," he said. "Four walks in six innings."

But he also struck out five, shredding Roberts and Adam Jones to start the night, and getting Luke Scott and Felix Pie in the fourth, firing a 95-mile-per-hour fastball by Pie.

"It was good until the fifth," Beckett said. "They made me throw a lot of pitches that inning."

"Josh got into the fifth and was really pitching well and had a really tough inning," Francona said. "All of a sudden we're back in a tight game. To his credit he goes back out there in the sixth and that got our bullpen back in order."

On the back-to-back walks to Jones and Nick Markakis, Beckett was ahead in the count but lost both batters with three straight balls. Francona didn't make an issue of it between innings.

"I never check with Beckett during the game," he said. "It's not going to work. It may work tomorrow. It might work the next day. It just looked like, you know sometimes I think you're trying to give up no runs. And he just didn't execute for a couple hitters."

Beckett said it wasn't necessarily anything he did. It was how the Orioles adjusted.

"They lay off tough pitches that they were swinging at earlier in the game," he said. "I was getting some relatively easy outs on pitcher's pitches."

One pitch that was called a strike got Roberts so flustered that he stopped in the middle of his third-inning at-bat to talk it over with plate umpire Doug Eddings. Orioles manager Dave Trembley came out to take up his player's cause.

"Beckett's a great pitcher, and he doesn't need any help," Trembley said. "Our guys are just as good as anybody else and they should be afforded the same amount of respect as everybody else gets. A strike zone is a strike zone . . . and I'm going to let Doug know that Beckett's pretty good and he doesn't need any help, but, if he is going to do that, make sure he does it for us, too."

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