Tough night for Beckett, Sox vs. Rays
Ace right-hander endures shortest start of season
ST. PETERSBURG -- A thoroughly flat performance by the Red Sox on Thursday night at Tropicana Field was salvaged slightly when they were at least able to avoid the history books.
Rays right-hander Matt Garza retired the first 18 hitters he faced, but his bid at perfection ended when Jacoby Ellsbury hit a looping liner for an infield hit to open the seventh.
Other than avoiding the indignity of a perfect game thrown against them for the first time in club history, the Red Sox didn't have much else to take away from this 13-0 loss to the Rays.
Garza, out of position after his follow-through, attempted to snare Ellsury's tantalizing flair, but the ball went just past him. Shortstop Jason Bartlett couldn't make a play against the speedy Ellsbury.
"He pitched very well tonight," said Ellsbury. "He had all his pitches working for him -- throwing them for strikes. He was getting ahead early in the count. Guys were battling, and he was making pitches. Hats off to him."
The Red Sox have not been no-hit since April 22, 1993, when Chris Bosio performed the honors for the Mariners in Seattle.
In sharp contrast to Garza's brilliance, Red Sox ace Josh Beckett struggled mightily for the second consecutive start, giving up 10 hits and seven runs over 4 2/3 innings. He walked three and struck out eight to fall to 2-2 on the season with a 7.22 ERA.
"I think everything was up in the zone," Beckett said. "Every time guys hit balls hard, that was generally what it was."
Then there was Garza, who barely gave the Red Sox anything they could contact solidly. Ellsbury's hit was the only one the Red Sox had in the entire game. Tampa Bay belted 18 hits against Boston's pitchers.
"Two strikes, [Evan] Longoria was covering the line pretty good. I was just trying to get something on that side," Ellsbury said. "Not the prettiest of ways to do it, but I got it done."
It was Garza who stymied the Red Sox in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series last year and prevented them from making a return trip to the World Series. He was at it again in this one, allowing just the one hit over 7 2/3 innings, walking one and striking out 10.
Things got so dire for the Red Sox that manager Terry Francona made a maneuver he loathes in the bottom of the eighth, asking outfielder Jonathan Van Every to pitch in relief. One day after belting a game-winning homer, Van Every, in his first mound performance since high school, retired two batters and didn't allow an earned run. The lefty did walk one and give up a double.
Van Every came on in relief of a struggling Javier Lopez, who was shelled for four hits, five runs and a walk in just 1/3 of an inning. In fact, when Van Every switched from right field to the mound, Lopez took over in right field.
It was the first time a Boston position player has pitched since David McCarty did so on Oct. 3, 2004, and the first time a Red Sox pitcher has played a position since Tom Burgmeier on Aug. 3, 1980.
"First of all, I don't like doing it," Francona said. "But I'm not going to let a pitcher get hurt. Javy had thrown three days in a row. I didn't want to embarrass anybody. Certainly, we didn't want to embarrass Javy. We're just not going to hurt somebody like that. We're already getting killed. It was a bad night."
After retiring six of the first seven batters he faced -- even striking out the side in the second -- things got bad in a hurry for Beckett.
The Rays started their third-inning rally innocently enough, getting infield hits from Bartlett and B.J. Upton. Carl Crawford drew a one-out walk. That set the stage for Longoria, who ripped a three-run double into the gap in right-center. Pat Burrell made it 4-0 with an RBI single to right. Beckett needed 43 pitches to get through that third, and he had thrown 75 over those first three innings.
"I thought his stuff was tremendous. [He] didn't execute enough pitches," Francona said. "I think there's times when maybe he's trying to be too fine. Again, [he's] not fully trusting his stuff. His stuff to me looked explosive. I thought some of his breaking balls, a couple were good, a couple weren't so good."
Back came the Rays for more in the fourth. With one out, Michel Hernandez ripped a solo homer to left. After a double by Upton, Crawford lined a double that left fielder Jason Bay couldn't get a good read on, allowing another run to score, putting Boston in a 6-0 hole.
Hernandez lined an RBI single to left in the fifth to make it 7-0.
Beckett was asked after the game if he felt as if he was close to where he needed to be to recapture his success.
"I just gave up seven runs in less than five innings," he said. "That's not close to me. Is that close to you? No."
"Yeah, it's frustrating, but it's a lot of things. [I] just have to make adjustments. I didn't do that in between my last two starts," he said.
Meanwhile, there was nothing the Red Sox could do in terms of adjustments against Garza.
"We have to find a way to figure him out," said second baseman Dustin Pedroia. "He's been throwing the ball great against us. It's just one game, and we'll move on and get after it tomorrow."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.