Red Sox break out the lumber vs. A's
After struggling, Boston's offense connects on 14 hits
BOSTON -- Their ace turned in yet another strong performance, but that was the second most relevant event of Monday night for the Red Sox.
The story was the offense, which went from its recently dormant state to quite lively, backing Josh Beckett en route to an 8-3 victory over the Oakland Athletics.
Beckett, who notched his American League-leading 12th win by striking out 10 and allowing three runs over seven-plus innings, has made such outings habitual in recent weeks.
But the bats? It was hard to know what to expect, given the fact that manager Terry Francona's batting order had hit an AL-worst .215 in the first nine games after the All-Star break.
In this one, however, there were contributions from top to bottom -- literally. All nine starters had at least one hit. The 1-2 combo of Jacoby Ellsbury (three hits) and Dustin Pedroia (two hits, a homer, two RBIs) led the charge. J.D. Drew (two runs, two hits, RBI) and newcomer Adam LaRoche (two doubles) each added multihit games.
"The biggest thing tonight is [that] we just kept putting pressure on them every inning," said Ellsbury. "When we have a lineup like we do, it's bound to happen."
But that doesn't make it any less gratifying once it does, even to such a veteran-laden team as Boston, which is accustomed to the peaks and valleys of a season.
"It's nice, definitely," said Ellsbury. "You play the music after the game. Everyone is in a good mood, and you just sleep well. Hopefully, you can repeat it tomorrow."
LaRoche might be the new guy in town, but he's wasted no time making his presence felt, living up to his reputation as a second-half player by drilling five hits in his first 13 at-bats for the Sox.
"It was comfortable coming in here," LaRoche said. "I knew a lot of these guys from either playing with them or against them, so it wasn't like I was coming into an atmosphere where I didn't know anybody. I was comfortable the second I walked in here. I feel pretty good on the field. The swing feels good."
Though the Red Sox trail the red-hot Yankees by 2 1/2 games in the AL East, it feels pretty nice for LaRoche, who left a Pirates squad that is in last place in the National League Central.
Boston's offensive woes, which have been the fret of Red Sox Nation for more than a week, probably seem trivial to LaRoche.
"We're starting to score some runs," he said. "From what I heard, they were struggling to get runners in. Hopefully, we can turn that around."
Beckett is one guy who doesn't need to turn much around. He keeps getting the job done. With this one, he improved to 7-0 with a 2.58 ERA in 10 Fenway starts this season. In his past 15 starts overall, he is 9-2 with a 2.33 ERA.
What did Beckett provide for the Red Sox on Monday?
"What we needed," said catcher Jason Varitek. "A good, solid starting performance that allowed us to score some runs. He's done that so much for us this year -- consistently. That's big for us right now."
However, Beckett gave much of the credit for his outing to Varitek, the gritty captain, who had several parts of his body heavily taped after the game.
"I thought 'Tek did a really good job," Beckett said. "Most people probably wouldn't be playing if they were 'Tek. I'm amazed at what he does and how he goes out there whether he's feeling five percent or 100 percent, and I think today was probably closer to five percent than it was to 100 percent. He deserves a lot of credit for that."
What the Sox needed was a strong start offensively, and that's what Pedroia provided, lining a shot just over the Green Monster against A's starter Trevor Cahill to make it 1-0 in the first.
Beckett didn't require much more in the way of support, but the Red Sox kept giving it to him anyway. Ellsbury put things in motion in the third, leading off with a triple into the corner in right. Pedroia followed with a sacrifice fly to right, and the Red Sox had a two-run lead.
"We swung the bats well tonight," said Pedroia. "A lot of guys had quality at-bats. We're moving in the right direction. We have to continue to grind out at-bats and get the pitcher's pitch count up and get into the other team's bullpen."
Cahill never could get into a groove. Back came those rejuvenated Boston bats in the fourth. Drew got things going with a single to right. Up stepped LaRoche, who peppered an RBI double off the Monster. Varitek followed with an RBI single to right. Ellsbury capped the damage in the three-run inning by beating out an infield hit that brought LaRoche home from third to make it 5-0.
A promising young pitcher, Cahill looks forward to the day when he can command the way Beckett does.
"I think through the first six innings, he threw 12 balls," said Cahill, whose guess was just three short of Beckett's actual total. "He was just pounding the zone, forcing guys to swing the bat. That's what I was trying to do."
If any player had symbolized Boston's offensive futility in recent weeks, it was Jason Bay. Therefore, it was an encouraging sign when the left fielder ripped a line single up the middle to bring home Kevin Youkilis in the fifth, giving him his 73rd RBI of the season but only the first since July 9.
"We'll take runs any way we can get them, but when it's spread around, it gives you more opportunities," said Francona. "We had chances in a lot of innings. Even innings we didn't really cash in, we still had chances. We kept at it, and it's a good way to play."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.