Indians - and fans - let Beckett have it at Fenway
When Josh Beckett mercifully made his exit Thursday night, it wasn’t the boos that were most noticeable.
It was the fan immediately behind the Red Sox’ dugout, swinging his arms as if he were swinging a golf club.
The fact that Beckett spent an off day playing golf when he was presumably resting a strained latissimus muscle had struck the same sore spot as the chicken-and-beer situation from the Sox’ meltdown last September, particularly with the Sox returning home from Kansas City having dropped two of three to the team with the worst home record in baseball.
There was resentment in the crowd, and they aimed it at Beckett.
Ten days had passed between his starts and despite the rest, Beckett lasted just 2 1/3 innings, his shortest start in four years, and he was roughed up for seven runs on seven hits.
“Maybe it was a little too much time off,’’ Sox manager Bobby Valentine acknowledged.
The 8-3 loss was the eighth in nine games for the Sox, and it dropped them to 12-19.
When his day was done, Beckett walked off the mound looking like the guy who was too ashamed to sign his scorecard.
The Indians teed off on him.
Jack Hannahan smacked a two-run homer in the second, his third of the season. Jason Kipnis followed with a leadoff bomb in the third, his sixth.
The Sox, who were already leading the league in homers allowed in their own ballpark, upped the total to 28. They gave up 77 last year.
Michael Brantley, who had just three hits in his previous five games, went 4 for 5, roping a pair of doubles. The four hits tied a career high.
Derek Lowe went six solid innings for the Indians, giving up nine hits but just two runs, his ERA when he left a stingy 2.47.
After tossing a clean first inning, Beckett allowed three runs in the second and four more in the third.
The Sox were desperate for a strong start.
Beckett offered little, struggling to execute two-strike pitches and paying for it.
“I’m not a big fan of making excuses, but I know when you have layoffs sometimes you’re not as crisp as you like to be,’’ said catcher Kelly Shoppach. “I’m sure he felt confident going into the game and we did too. That happens. Sometimes you don’t execute and they took advantage of pitches out over the plate.’’
Beckett threw only 56 pitches. The last start in which he got as few as seven outs was Aug. 17, 2008, when he gave up eight earned runs on eight hits to the Blue Jays.
Beckett is now 2-4, and his ERA has shot up to 5.97.
Valentine again had to dig deep into his bullpen, calling on Andrew Miller (1 2/3 clean innings with a strikeout), Rich Hill (one hitless inning and a strikeout), Scott Atchison (two innings), Franklin Morales (one inning), and Alfredo Aceves (one inning).
“It’s challenging every night and the guys are doing a great job,’’ said Valentine. “They’re getting ready, they’re coming in throwing strikes, quality pitches. I tip my hat to them.’’
Offensively, it was less about the three runs the Sox scratched together and more about the 11 runners they left on the table.
“We were a bloop away from being back in that game about four different times,’’ Valentine said.
Adrian Gonzalez led off the Sox second with a double and eventually scored on a two-out single by Mike Aviles, who has hit in five straight games (8 for 27).
Daniel Nava, called up from Pawtucket in the morning to give Cody Ross a rest, ended up giving the lineup a boost. In the fifth, he ripped a two-out double over Shin-Soo Choo’s head in right field to drive in Gonzalez and make it 7-2.
Dustin Pedroia’s leadoff homer in the seventh, on an 0-and-1 pitch, landed in the Sox bullpen. It gave him five homers for the year and extended his hit streak to 11 games, but only cut the hole to 7-3.
Pedroia came up in the eighth with a chance to tie it after Indians righthander Vinnie Pestano walked the bases loaded, but he blooped a 3-and-1 pitch to first baseman Casey Kotchman, who nearly collided with Kipnis trying to catch it.
“We had a chance to come back on them,’’ Gonzalez said. “We just didn’t get the job done. We’ve got to do a better job with runners in scoring position. I think we might have had runners in scoring position in almost every inning.’’
Still, the Sox spent the night like they’ve spent much of the season, fighting to dig out of a ditch, and it begins with a group of starting pitchers who came in with a 5.77 ERA.
“I thought we had a run through the rotation where everyone was throwing the ball pretty well,’’ Valentine said. “We do need to get back to that inner-team competition and just the belief that they can do it.
“We have quality starting pitchers and they’ll be pitching much better.’’
Julian Benbow can be reached at email@example.com.