Serene 15 for Beckett
Red Sox's ace becomes Majors' top wins leader against O's
BALTIMORE -- Josh Beckett raced out of the Red Sox's dugout to take the mound for the ninth inning and heard a loud roar of appreciation from many members of the Red Sox Nation that helped fill Oriole Park at Camden Yards on Saturday.
Beckett deserved all of that applause. The right-hander became the first 15-game winner in the Majors as he overpowered the Orioles in the Red Sox's 6-2 win before a sellout crowd of 49,242 in Baltimore.
He nearly threw a complete-game shutout before giving up a pair of RBI hits with two outs in the ninth. Beckett allowed two runs on eight hits with eight strikeouts and no walks in 8 2/3 innings.
Beckett definitely wanted to finish the game, but manager Terry Francona pulled Boston's ace after Miguel Tejada laced an RBI single and Kevin Millar added a run-scoring double. Jonathan Papelbon came in one batter later to get his 27th save and get a much better ending than Friday -- when the Orioles rallied from a 5-1 deficit in the eighth to win.
"That's very reassuring; it allows us to put yesterday in the past in a hurry, and that's a big compliment to Beckett," Francona said. "I actually thought, if anything, he'd gotten stronger in the ninth. It just looked like he wanted it so badly that he got a little amped up. After the way he threw, I didn't want him to stay out there and struggle."
Beckett threw 115 pitches, 81 of which were strikes, on a day where he kept the Orioles hitters off-balance throughout. He rarely ran into much trouble after Baltimore put two on with one out in the first, and Beckett got Tejada to ground into an inning-ending double play.
The right-hander then breezed as the Orioles didn't threaten again until the ninth. He was hoping to finish the job and felt frustrated that Manny Delcarmen and Papelbon had to come in.
"It's nice to have complete games, and they're good numbers to have and everything like that, but to me it's more important to save those guys in the bullpen," Beckett said. "I was mad at myself [for that] when I came out. It's hard to find anything wrong with that game."
Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek certainly liked what he saw.
"He was pretty dominant," Varitek said. "He threw some really good sinkers today. It would have been nice to finish it, but it was also nice to get [Papelbon] out there and get him some work."
Orioles manager Dave Trembley thought that coming up empty in their first-inning threat was costly, because he knew the scoring chances against Beckett wouldn't be many.
"Well, if we had scored in the first, it might have opened it up for us a little bit," Trembley said. "But you could tell by the way [Beckett] was pitching that runs were going to be at a premium against him. He dominated."
The Red Sox gave Beckett an early cushion, scoring two runs apiece in the second and third innings against Orioles rookie Garrett Olson. Varitek led off the second with a single and went to third base when J.D. Drew doubled down the right-field line. Julio Lugo later lined a two-run double to left for a quick 2-0 lead.
Boston made it 4-0 in the third, when Drew blooped a two-run single into left field. Manny Ramirez scored from third, while Mike Lowell ran in just a few feet behind Ramirez. The Red Sox added two more in the eighth, thanks to a bases-loaded walk from Kevin Youkilis and a Dustin Pedroia RBI single.
Drew continued his recent hot streak with a 3-for-5 effort. He doubled twice and had two RBIs. Lugo also helped by going 2-for-3 with his two RBIs.
Patience at the plate and Orioles control problems helped the Red Sox, who drew 10 walks, most of which led to scoring threats. Seven Red Sox hitters walked at least once, and Boston put runners on base in eight of the game's nine innings.
It could have been an even bigger rout, except that the Red Sox went just 3-for-17 with runners in scoring position and left 11 on base.
Jeff Seidel is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.