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Ace in his veins

Posted by Eric Wilbur, Boston.com Staff September 23, 2008 08:50 AM

I donít know if, following last nightís 4-3 Red Sox loss to the Indians, weíre supposed to be concerned about Josh Beckett, but hereís some relief for you this morning anyhow:

Last September, the month before he took the baseball postseason by storm and led the Red Sox to their second World Series title of the decade, Beckett was running on all cylinders, 4-1 with a 3.18 ERA. He allowed seven runs total in his first 28 innings of the month before getting smacked around a bit in his final start of the season, a 5-4 loss to the Twins on Sept. 27.

One year later, the Red Sox October ace has just one win in his last five starts, has watched his season ERA balloon back over four (4.03) after allowing four runs in last nightís party-on-hold defeat, and isnít in the Cy Young discussion. But, on the whole, Beckett has arguably been even better this time around in his September tuneup for the postseason, giving up just six earned runs over 25 innings, to the tune of a 2.16 ERA.

Itís no coincidence that September has historically been his best month of the regular season. When the weeks tick by in an explosion of cool evenings, Beckettís veins match the atmosphere while his fiery presence heats up the night, mentally and physically preparing himself for the stage on which he has no equal in the modern game. Heís 18-8, with a 2.86 ERA over his career in the month of September, his best numbers by far - aside from the postseason, when heís a nifty 6-2 with a 1.73 ERA.

In 2003, the year he led the Marlins to the title, he was 3-1 with a 2.08 ERA in September.

If last night was indeed his final meaningful start of the regular season -- depending on how close the Sox get to the Rays in the final weekend -- it certainly wasnít the best precursor to whatís to come just over a week from now, nor is the entire package, a 12-10 mark that guarantees him his lowest win total since 2004. But July, when Beckett lost three of five decisions, seems a long time ago, and that eight-run stinker against the Blue Jays last month a distant memory when you study how he prepares for the most important time of his season.

That six-inning, 10-hit, five-run outing last year against the Twins in his final regular season start didn't seem a fitting finish to his 2007 season either, a loss that very well may have cost him the Cy Young Award to CC Sabathia. And all he did from there was go out and toss a complete-game shutout in his ALDS start against the Angels, en route to a 4-0 October.

So, who exactly is uneasy after last night, then?

Besides the Angels, of course.

6 comments so far...
  1. I just hope they clinch it tonight. That was one of the more frustrating games to watch in recent memory.

    Posted by mjb September 23, 08 12:24 PM
  1. Bigtime, that ump cost us a champagne toast last night. Finishing the job off against 22 game winner with the recently shaky Wake won't be easy.

    Posted by Tibs September 23, 08 12:41 PM
  1. Between the "ump interference", Lowries struggles in the clutch, the decision not to wave Youkilis around on Bay's double...I don't know which to blame the most for last nights loss. 12 men LOB, 10 hits = 3 runs (never)

    It just wasn't meant to be.

    Posted by ben ichton September 23, 08 12:55 PM
  1. I hope you're right about Beckett, Wilbur. True, he's remarkably on target for his normal post-season brilliance if past performance is any indication-- right down to the crappy last start he had agains the Twins last season before he ran the table in the playoffs and Series.

    However, last year, Beckett was brilliant more often than not over the whole season, while this year, he's been pretty much just another pitcher out there. Not bad, but not great, either.

    He just has never seemed to get on a roll.

    Perhaps the roll starts next week.

    All Sox fans hope so, anyway.

    Posted by Matt Talvi September 23, 08 12:59 PM
  1. Papi is gonna come up big tonight....9th inning walk off...

    Champagne Showers!

    Posted by kp September 23, 08 03:20 PM
  1. Eric -

    Tell your editors that we would rather read your blog than Massarotti's. I haven't seen your blog for a week and look forward to it, especially at the end of the season and playoff time. Keep up the great writing !


    Posted by Mike September 23, 08 03:50 PM
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