Only Mother Nature can stop Beckett
Righty nets win No. 10 with six shutout frames against Braves
ATLANTA -- Until Tuesday night, Josh Beckett had no experience in 2007 trying to wipe away the sour taste of a loss. Judging by the way the right-hander responded, it might be a while before he has to do so again.
With Curt Schilling back in Boston getting his ailing right shoulder examined, Beckett again proved why he has been the de facto ace of his team this season. He stymied the Braves with six solid innings, leading the Red Sox to a 4-0 victory.
Beckett's brief misstep against the Rockies quickly faded away on a night when he ran his record to 10-1 and lowered his ERA to 3.14.
"It's nice. Obviously you want to stay away from those losing streaks," Beckett said. "No. 10 has always been a win for me that's kind of elusive. It usually takes me two or three starts. It only took me two this time. That was nice."
With Beckett likely to make just one more start before the American League All-Star squad is announced on July 1, the right-hander looks like a near lock to be selected among the best of the best for the first time in his career.
Yet, there's at least a chance that the Red Sox haven't even seen the best of Beckett yet.
"He has that ability," said Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek. "I still think there's an upper side to Josh. He'll continue to work and continue to work on executing his pitches."
As it turns out, only the rain could stop Beckett. Play was halted for 48 minutes to start the seventh, and Beckett (six innings, four hits, no runs and three strikeouts) didn't return.
"Six innings? Is that all you've got?" quipped Sox reliever Brendan Donnelly as Beckett held court with reporters.
With 88 pitches in the bank, manager Terry Francona didn't see any reason to bring Beckett back out after the significant stoppage in play.
"I didn't throw 100 pitches, but I gave it 100 percent," said Beckett, who also chipped in with his bat, delivering an RBI double in the fifth inning.
There were others who played key roles in this game. David Ortiz clubbed home run No. 12 -- and just his fifth since May 4 -- an opposite-field shot against Braves starter Tim Hudson.
"Any time you hit a ball to the opposite way like that and get rewarded, even if that ball gets caught, it's a great swing," Francona said. "To have it carry out, that tells me a guy is doing what he's supposed to at the plate."
Hudson knew full well he had been taken out of the yard by one of the best in the game.
"It was a sinker that was up in the zone just a little bit, but it was outside," Hudson said. "It probably would have been a ball away. But like I said, a ball away to him is almost like the outside corner."
Ortiz, though he was in his typically gregarious mood after the game, didn't have much time to chat.
"The bus is going to leave [without me]," the slugger said.
And even if Coco Crisp had been late for the bus, you can be sure he would have caught it anyway. The center fielder has been catching everything in sight. He made yet another highlight reel play, lunging toward the gap in left-center and making a diving grab against Hudson in the fifth.
"I've told him this before, but it was the greatest catch I've ever had behind me," Beckett said. "I told him that again tonight. I think that's about three or four times I've told him that, so I guess I'm going to have to go back and look at all of them and figure out exactly which one is the greatest catch."
Left-handed reliever Hideki Okajima, who lowered his ERA to 1.01, again came up huge out of the bullpen, getting a pivotal double play in the eighth that enabled closer Jonathan Papelbon to come in with the four-run lead still intact in the ninth.
And how invaluable is Alex Cora? The utility man spotted the slumping Julio Lugo at shortstop and came up with a triple and a sac fly.
"He's a very important guy to have on a team," Francona said. "He played a very professional game. You always know that's going to happen."
Beckett and Hudson traded zeroes for the first three innings, but Ortiz changed all that in the top of the fourth by launching that solo homer off Hudson.
The bottom of the order sparked the Sox in the fifth. Cora belted a triple to center, and up to the plate stepped Beckett, who aided his own cause by lining an RBI double, which was out of the reach of left fielder Willie Harris.
"The big killer for me was the double that Beckett hit," Hudson said. "I'm supposed to get pitchers out."
Luck, said Beckett.
"I put a decent swing on it, and I think the ball hit my bat more than me hitting it," Beckett said.
Then again, Beckett was a far bigger nemesis to the Braves with his arm than his bat.
"He was very dominant tonight," Francona said. "He threw strikes and got his fastball down and in the zone. Again, it's the Beckett we've seen all year, and he was tremendous."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.