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DET@BOS: Beckett strong, but leaves with stiff neck

Josh Beckett is a proven big-game pitcher and Boston's right-handed ace. Fausto Carmona was Cleveland's Opening Day starter, and despite a host of talented young pitchers, the Indians are ready for the 27-year-old right-hander to assume the role Beckett has held the past five-plus seasons in Boston.

On Tuesday, Carmona (3-4, 4.76 ERA) will oppose Beckett (3-1, 1.73 ERA) at Progressive Field as the Indians host the Red Sox in the second of a three-game series. Cleveland has rarely struggled this season -- entering with a four-game winning streak -- and Indians manager Manny Acta said the club's starting pitching has been the key for that, beginning with Carmona.

"Fausto has so much to do with it," Acta said. "Last year was the key, too. If you don't have a guy that can do that every five days like he did last year, and you're throwing a bunch of kids out there to find out about them, it can get ugly."

In his last start Thursday, Carmona was shelled by the White Sox for the second time in as many outings this season. In that start, Carmona allowed eight runs in five innings. He also was hit hard by Chicago on Opening Day -- giving up 10 runs in three innings -- and has a 2.56 ERA against opponents other than the White Sox this season.

Carmona quickly rebounded from his Opening Day disaster in his next start against the Red Sox, throwing seven shutout innings and allowing only two hits. That game was part of a three-game sweep the Indians posted over the Red Sox from April 5-7. Although that series helped propel the Indians to the quick start they haven't yet let up on, Acta said before Monday's 3-2 win he didn't think those results had any bearing on the current series.

"It was early in the year. We've been playing well the whole year," Acta said. "Some teams go through spots where they lose some games and they win some games. It's a long season. I don't know. It was only three games into the season. It's a long season. Teams will go through ups and downs."

Red Sox manager Terry Francona agreed, saying now things seem to be going right for his club.

"The day [Jon] Lester pitched well, we didn't get any runs," said Francona. "We got blown out every so often. We would lose a close one. We were inconsistent in all areas. Now it seems like we're sort of stringing together maybe that game where we spread it out a little bit and we've won a lot of close games. I just think things have settled down a little bit."

During that series, Boston was, indeed, struggling -- in the midst of a stretch that saw it start 2-10. Now, however, the Red Sox are playing as was expected, winning eight of their last 10. One of the chief reasons for Boston's solid rebound has been its starting pitchers, who have tossed 11 scoreless outings this year. At the heart of that success is Beckett, who has allowed only one earned run in his last 23 1/3 innings (spanning four starts).

In Beckett's last outing, Thursday against Detroit, the 31-year-old right-hander held the Tigers to one run on five hits in six innings, but he had to leave early because of a sore neck. He should be fine for Tuesday's start against Cleveland, a team he is 3-5 with a 5.55 ERA against in eight career starts. Beckett's last start against the Indians came on April 5, when he gave up three runs in five innings to take the loss.

Red Sox: Jenks nearing return
On Monday, reliever Bobby Jenks felt no discomfort in his right biceps following his first side session since being placed on the 15-day disabled list. He is scheduled to throw again Wednesday and said he could be activated this weekend when the Red Sox travel to Detroit.

"Everything felt great today," Jenks said. "[My] biceps is back to where it was before a few weeks ago. Right now, everything's looking good."

• Entering Monday -- Boston's 47th game of the season -- Adrian Gonzalez (65 hits, 41 RBIs) was the fourth Red Sox player since 1920 to record at least 65 hits and 40 RBIs through the club's first 46 games of the season. The others were Ted Williams (65 hits, 48 RBIs in 1948), Jim Rice (67 hits, 50 RBIs in '78) and Manny Ramirez (71 hits, 56 RBIs in 2001). Ramirez is the only other player to hit those totals in his first year in Boston.

Indians: Is a skid inevitable?
Cleveland hasn't had a losing streak longer than three games this season, playing remarkably consistent baseball. Despite his team's play so far, Acta is a realist and said he knows a skid could begin any day.

"It's almost impossible to go through 162 games without going through a six or seven one," Acta said. "Just about everybody goes through it. But we've been pretty consistent with that. Right now, we're just battling and trying to win as many games as we can until Grady [Sizemore] and [Travis] Hafner come back. Our lineup is at a little bit of a disadvantage, but it's a team game and we've been getting some different heroes."

• Cleveland's Progressive Field magic continued with a two-run, eighth-inning comeback Monday, as the Tribe moved to 19-4 at home this season -- the best mark since the 2007 club started the same. The Indians also are 8-0 at home in one-run games this season.

Worth noting
• Boston's Kevin Youkilis (10-game) and Cleveland's Shin-Soo Choo (nine-game) each saw their hitting streaks end Monday.

• The Indians' bullpen has allowed only two earned runs in its last 24 2/3 innings.

• Cleveland has won five straight home games against the Red Sox since last year.

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