Red Sox 2, Astros 1

Brilliant outing

After pitcher is named a Star, Beckett shines

By Michael Vega
Globe Staff / July 4, 2011

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HOUSTON - Josh Beckett could think of no better way to celebrate becoming an All-Star for the third time in his career than by picking up his seventh win of the season. That it came on his home turf only added to yesterday’s 2-1 Red Sox victory over the Astros before a Minute Maid Park crowd of 38,035.

“Coming here and winning three, it’s tough to sweep a series on the road, or at home for that matter,’’ said Beckett (7-3, 2.12 ERA), who helped the Sox cap an interleague sweep of the Astros by throwing eight solid innings, allowing one run on five hits while ringing up a season-high 11 strikeouts.

He has allowed five hits or fewer in his last nine starts, breaking a tie with Roger Clemens for the longest such streak in Red Sox history.

“I think the energy level was up,’’ said Beckett, who recently had to skip a start because of the flu. “I just felt better physically, energy-wise.’’

Perhaps the only thing that could have capped Beckett’s day was the uncapping of an ice-cold bottle of Lone Star, or as it’s known in these parts, “The National Beer of Texas.’’

Beckett, who often can be seen in the Sox clubhouse wearing a gray T-shirt with the Lone Star logo, certainly was deserving of his favorite adult beverage after the righty from nearby Spring, Texas, submitted a fine performance.

“Obviously, I thought he was tremendous,’’ manager Terry Francona said.

His only mistake came in the fifth inning, when the Astros tied the game at 1 on Angel Sanchez’s single to center, which scored Brett Wallace, who had smacked a leadoff double to deep center.

“Wallace drilled it against the wall and Sanchez got a ball up, one of the few, for a base hit, but that was it,’’ Francona said. “[Beckett] was great, and he had to be because we didn’t have a whole lot going on either.’’

Before Beckett took the mound, he learned that he and center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury had been voted onto the All-Star team by their peers. Designated hitter David Ortiz and first baseman Adrian Gonzalez were voted in by the fans as starters.

“It’s a great honor,’’ said Beckett, who added about being voted in by his peers, “I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s a really special way to be voted in - by the people I compete against.’’

Rookie righthander Jordan Lyles, the youngest player in the majors at 20, tried to match Beckett, but he lasted only five innings. He gave up an unearned run on three hits and five walks to go along with four strikeouts.

“He pitched very well,’’ Francona said. “He added and subtracted, took some off, he located. We didn’t do a whole lot against him. We got his pitch count up, which was good, but he was a pretty mature pitcher.’’

In the fourth inning, Kevin Youkilis hit a leadoff single to center. J.D. Drew walked, and, after Josh Reddick struck out, Yamaico Navarro singled to center to load the bases.

Jason Varitek hit a grounder to first, and Wallace threw wildly to the plate, which enabled Youkilis to slide beneath catcher Carlos Corporan - who landed on Youkilis’s right ankle.

“I thought he was dead, because he came down right on Youk’s foot, all his weight,’’ said Beckett, who was standing in the on-deck circle.

“No, it didn’t cut me or anything like that,’’ Youkilis said. “It just landed on my ankle, but we were good to go.’’

It was a good thing, too, because Youkilis drove in the go-ahead run in the ninth when he drew a bases-loaded walk from Mark Melancon, who had intentionally walked Gonzalez to face Youkilis.

“There’s no doubt that’s not an easy decision,’’ said Houston manager Brad Mills. “But you’re looking at these guys and put everything together and if we are going to get beat there, that’s who we want to get beat by in that situation.’’

Youkilis said he was not offended by Mills’s decision.

“No, I mean, when the guy in front of you is hitting .350 with 74 RBIs, it’s expected,’’ said Youkilis, whose walk plated Drew Sutton. “But I love the challenge of it. I want to be the guy to bring the run home and we were very fortunate to do that. Then Pap came in and closed the game for us.’’

Jonathan Papelbon picked up his 17th save of the season when he punched out three of the four batters he faced to wrap up the Sox’ sojourn through Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Houston with a 5-4 record.

“We got through it getting David some at-bats, Gonzy going to right, nobody getting hurt,’’ Francona said. “We turned what was a potentially miserable trip into not one. Hopefully we can go home and have a good week.

“Got a chance to see my dad [in Pittsburgh], got a chance to see Millsie [in Houston], got a chance to see all my friends in Philadelphia. Nice trip.’’

And Beckett knew precisely how he was going to celebrate it.

“Maybe I’ll have a Lone Star Light on the plane,’’ he said.

Michael Vega can be reached at

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