Beckett denies Yankees for 19th win
Righty outlasts Wang; Youkilis day-to-day with wrist contusion
BOSTON -- Call it an American League Cy Young Award statement or one more push toward the 20-win plateau. Whatever the case, the Red Sox were just glad Saturday was Josh Beckett's turn to pitch.
And Beckett did not disappoint, putting together his latest power-pitching clinic in leading the Red Sox to a 10-1 victory over the Yankees that pushed Boston's lead in the AL East back to 5 1/2 games.
Coming off a devastating 8-7 loss on Friday in which Boston's 1-2 relief tandem of Hideki Okajima and Jonathan Papelbon blew a five-run lead, Beckett picked the Red Sox right up by holding the heavy-hitting Yankees to a mere three hits and one run in seven innings.
"I thought Beckett did exactly what we have kind of come to expect and also needed," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "He pitched like an ace of a staff today. Against the best lineup in baseball, he went out there and did exactly what we needed."
Beckett walked two, struck out seven and, aside from a solo homer by Derek Jeter in the first, basically never blinked. Such has been the case all year for Beckett, who ran his record to 19-6 and lowered his ERA to 3.20.
As comfortable as Beckett is in big games, that is how uncomfortable he is talking about his excellence in the immediate aftermath.
"I don't know that I relish it," said Beckett. "I just do what I always do, just go out and try to execute pitches. They showed why they've won so many games since the All-Star break [on Friday] night."
But Saturday swiftly took on a different tone, thanks to Beckett.
"It was a huge win for us out there tonight," said Eric Hinske, who doubled and homered while filling in for the injured Manny Ramirez. "Beckett pitched awesome. After what happened last night, this was a big bounce-back game for us."
In this one, Beckett was opposed by fellow AL Cy Young Award contender Chien-Ming Wang. The 90-59 Red Sox were able to muster far more offense then they did against Wang in a 5-0 loss at Yankee Stadium on Aug. 30.
Offensively, the Red Sox chipped away early -- scoring one run in the first and one in the fifth -- and broke it open late, tacking on three runs in the sixth and four in the seventh.
Wang, who was strong early, seemed to wear down in the middle innings. He was touched up for nine hits and five runs in 5 2/3 innings.
"Wang is an elite pitcher, he really is," said Sox third baseman Mike Lowell. "We had our hands full. I think we put together some good at-bats."
It was particularly important for the Red Sox to do something positive against the Yankees, considering they had lost the last five meetings with their rivals. Beckett's day ended when he blew pitch No. 108 -- a 93-mph fastball -- by Melky Cabrera to get out of a two-on, two-out jam in the seventh.
A packed house of 36,215 roared with approval as Beckett walked off the mound for the final time of the afternoon.
"I think he wants to be a great pitcher," said Lowell. "I think that's a mentality that I can't say is the same for everyone. He looks forward to the games that are on a big stage. That's good, because he's got good stuff and the right mentality. We definitely feel very confident when he's on the mound for us."
Jeter did his best to set an early tone for the Yankees, crushing a solo homer to center off Beckett in the first. In fact, Beckett threw 30 pitches in that inning but gave up just the one run.
"He was close," said Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek. "He wasn't way off or misfiring all over the place. He was just settling into his delivery."
And the Red Sox were able to get the run right back in the bottom of the inning. Dustin Pedroia led off with a single up the middle, and David Ortiz pounded a two-out single to right. Lowell capitalized on the opportunity, ripping a single down the left-field line to make it 1-1.
"I try to hit the ball hard," said Lowell. "If you hit the ball hard, you have a decent chance. It was nice to put us right back in the game in that first inning."
For a while, the pitchers took center stage, as neither ace budged until the bottom of the fifth. It was then that the Red Sox started a rally in painful fashion, as Kevin Youkilis was hit on the right wrist with a pitch. Youkilis had to leave the game with a contusion and is considered day-to-day after undergoing X-rays, which were negative. Jacoby Ellsbury pinch-ran for Youkilis and swiftly moved to third on a single to right by Ortiz. With two outs, J.D. Drew poked an opposite-field single down the line in left to bring home Ellsbury and give the Sox a 2-1 lead.
The Sox again got to Wang in the sixth. Hinske got it started with a double off the Green Monster, and Coco Crisp followed by slamming a single up the middle before stealing second. Pedroia tried to get a run home on a grounder to second, but Hinske was thrown out at the plate on a bang-bang play in which he barreled into Yankees catcher Jorge Posada.
Then it was up to Ellsbury, who once again provided a spark, this time with a line-drive single to left that scored Crisp to make it a two-run game.
"I hit him pretty good, but he ended up holding onto the ball," said Hinske. "Ellsbury had a big hit, but I think [the collision with Posada] kind of pumped the team up a little bit. It was a good kind of momentum swing for us."
Ortiz opened it up further, lofting a double to the gap in right-center field that brought two more runs home to make it 5-1. The speedy Ellsbury raced all the way around from first, barely sliding in under the tag of Posada.
But the day belonged to Beckett. And in a way, so has the season.
"In my mind, he's carried us all year," said Hinske.
"History has shown -- whether it was the  World Series, when he was the MVP -- he relishes a stage in which it's time to elevate his game and step up and produce, like he did today," said Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.