Sox are sent into reverse
Phillies drive away Beckett as 5-game win streak ends
PHILADELPHIA - Josh Beckett's starts over the past month had turned into more exhibitions than contests. His dominance could be savored, but it squeezed any drama out of the game. Yesterday, by the time Jimmy Rollins sauntered into the batter's box to lead off the seventh inning, that had changed.
Beckett already had blown a three-run lead, then tied the game himself by mashing a 394-foot home run. With Rollins, hitless in 14 at-bats, at the plate, Beckett intended to keep the score tied. He fired a 3-and-2 sinker, aimed low and away.
"Right down the middle," Beckett said.
Rollins crunched the pitch 373 feet, over the left-field fence, and pierced Beckett's supremacy again. The Phillies wouldn't trail again in an 11-6 Red Sox loss, which snapped Beckett's Cy Young-caliber string of starts and prevented the reigning World Series champs from being swept by one of this season's leading threats.
Beckett allowed seven runs (six earned) on 11 hits in six innings plus in front of 45,141 at Citizens Bank Park. The Red Sox' bullpen, as it has so rarely done this year, allowed the game to spiral out of reach, Daniel Bard and Takashi Saito combining with Beckett to hand the Phillies six runs in the seventh inning.
"It's just a shame," Beckett said. "Your team scores you six runs, and you can't hold them to less than that."
The Red Sox dressed quickly afterward and silently handed bags to clubhouse attendants, readying for their flight home after a one-city trip. The sullen mood in the clubhouse belied their recent achievements. They faced four consecutive opponents who occupied first place when the series began. They swept two and went 9-3 overall.
"We feel pretty good about it," center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury said. "Obviously, today wasn't very good. But 9-3, I think we'll take it."
In his last four starts, Beckett had allowed 11 hits combined - the same number he allowed yesterday. He spotted his fastball with precision since May 1, and he posted a 5-0 record and a 1.70 ERA from then until yesterday.
Beckett's pounding of the strike zone's lower half ceased. The Phillies belted three consecutive two-out singles to score a run in the first. Beckett did not diagnose the problem with his pitches with certainty, but "obviously, they must have been up if they were getting them up over the infielder's heads," he said.
Still, almost everything has gone right for the Red Sox lately, and they surged back. Rocco Baldelli and Nick Green led off the second with back-to-back home runs, and the Sox battered J.A. Happ for two more runs in the inning. Beckett retired the next nine Phillies. The Red Sox' five-game winning streak appeared on its way to six.
The Phillies smacked five hits in the fifth, scoring four runs and stealing back the lead. Beckett nearly escaped with the lead intact. With two outs and a man on third, Shane Victorino laced a liner to right. Baldelli hesitated, then tentatively moved forward as the ball skipped at his feet. Chris Coste scored. A single and a Ryan Howard double later, the Phillies had command.
Beckett chucked his glove in the dugout, his first means of seething. On most days, any further venting would have to wait. Yesterday, he pulled a bat from the rack. He was up.
Beckett tripped climbing the dugout steps, took a few swings in the on-deck circle, and walked into the batter's box, his stare boring through the pitcher. Happ threw one pitch. Beckett whipped the bat, an angry swing, and the ball soared over the left-field fence. It was Beckett's third career home run, and the first by a Red Sox pitcher since May 20, 2006, when he launched one here against Brett Myers.
"As crazy a game as this was, we're right back in it," manager Terry Francona said. "It didn't work out very well."
Rollins's home run kick-started a disastrous inning. Bard entered after Victorino singled and walked the first batter he faced, a fitting start. His outing ended after he walked relief pitcher Chan Ho Park. Saito replaced him and promptly plunked Rollins and walked Victorino on four pitches, forcing in two runs and effectively ending the game.
"Just a real frustrating inning," Francona said.
Beckett had to watch as both his personal streak and his team's run ended. The lopsided nature of the game will make it an easy one for the Sox to discard on their offday. For a dozen games, they proved worthy against the league's best teams. They'll arrive at Fenway Park tomorrow and try to begin another streak against the Florida Marlins, an opponent far from first place.
"Whoever you play next, you show up," Jason Bay said. "First, second, last [place]. It doesn't matter. We had a pretty good stretch there. We did all right. It doesn't really get any easier if teams aren't in first. We're still trying to do the same thing."
Adam Kilgore can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org