Gutsy Beckett leads Sox to 90th win
Six-run fifth seals the deal for ace's 16th victory of season
KANSAS CITY -- Just like Josh Beckett never sees any reason for enthusiasm when he turns in a dominant performance and loses, he probably won't apologize for nearly equaling his career high for hits allowed and still leading the Red Sox to a 9-2 victory over the Royals on Wednesday night at Kauffman Stadium.
Beckett's sole mission when he takes the ball for the Red Sox (90-61) is to win, and he navigated through some heavy traffic jams to do just that in this one, improving his record to 16-6 on the season.
It went in the books as a quality start for Beckett -- his 20th of the season. The ace scattered 12 hits, but he allowed two runs over six innings. He walked one and struck out seven, stranding 10 baserunners in the process.
"They hit a lot of ground balls, some of them at guys, some of them not at guys," said Beckett. "We played good defense, and obviously got some timely hits."
The only time Beckett allowed more hits in a game was Aug. 29, 2007, when the Yankees had 13 against him. In the case of Wednesday's performance, Beckett hardly felt the hits were indicative of the way he pitched.
"I definitely think I threw the ball better today than I have in a while," said Beckett. "I think they had eight ground-ball hits. That means I'm keeping the ball down. I felt like I had a good sinker today."
The win pushed the Red Sox to the 90-win plateau for the sixth time in Theo Epstein's seven seasons as general manager and the fifth time in Terry Francona's six seasons at the helm.
And the magic number for clinching a postseason berth was whittled down to five, and it stayed there after the Rangers defeated the A's, 9-8, in Oakland on Wednesday.
Once Beckett exited, the bullpen was dominant, as Hideki Okajima, Billy Wagner and Jonathan Papelbon held the Royals hitless over the final three innings.
The offense, shut down over the first four innings, erupted for a six-spot against losing pitcher Luke Hochevar in the fifth.
David Ortiz put things out of reach, hitting a 418-foot, three-run homer -- No. 25 on the season -- in the top of the ninth.
"It was nice," said Francona. "The ball came off his bat good. He wasn't on his front foot and muscling it out of the ballpark. That ball was back-spinning. That was a pretty swing."
Victor Martinez pushed his career-high hitting streak to 22 games, while Dustin Pedroia extended his streak to 15.
As for Beckett, he made pitches when he needed to, helping the Red Sox bounce back after losing the first two games of this four-game set.
"He had a pretty good beginning and end," said Francona. "In the middle, I thought he had a little streak there where he got hard and flat. He had a stretch there where the ball flattened out and they got a bunch of hits. Fortunately, he made a real good pitch to [Brayan] Pena, got out of the inning, and then on the flip side, Hochevar kind of did the same thing."
Trailing, 2-0, the Red Sox turned on the jets in the fifth inning. With two on and one out, Jacoby Ellsbury belted a two-run triple to left to tie the game. Pedroia put the Red Sox ahead for good, ripping an RBI single up the middle.
Martinez belted a single, as his streak tied Ellsbury for the longest by a Boston hitter this season. Kevin Youkilis walked to load the bases, and Jason Bay looped in a two-run single. Ortiz capped the scoring in the six-run inning with an RBI single, giving Beckett a 6-2 lead.
"We have a lineup that works into really good counts with the pitcher," said Ortiz. "We see a lot of pitches. That's what makes us good. When you see a lot of pitches, you get an idea of what you want to do when you get to the plate that second or third at-bat. After the second or third at-bat, you see that production getting even better and that's because we know what we're dealing with."
The game was scoreless going into the bottom of the fourth, when the Royals rallied against Beckett. Yuniesky Betancourt struck a triple into the gap in left-center to make it a 1-0 game. David DeJesus drilled an RBI single up the middle, putting the Red Sox in a two-run hole. Beckett gave up 10 hits over the first four innings.
"He was missing location, but that shows you what kind of pitcher he is," said Martinez, paired with Beckett for the second time this season. "He was able to hang in there and give us a pretty good chance to win the ballgame."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.