04/18/08 12:31 AM ET
Backed by Manny's taters, Beckett shuts down Yankees
By Ian Browne / MLB.com
That 15-run debacle that happened on Wednesday night? Josh Beckett made that seem like a week ago instead of a day ago in overpowering the Yankees with his heat, freezing them with his curveball and keeping them out in front on his changeup.
For the Red Sox, it ended up with a 7-5 victory over the Yankees which salvaged a split of this two-game series in New York.
"That's kind of what you're banking on your ace to be," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "He showed it. He had a bump in the road in the fifth and then he gathers himself and went back out and gave us three more good ones against a great lineup. He pitched well. He did a good job. He understands his responsibility, and he's good enough to carry it out."
The rivals won't meet again until July 3, but the Red Sox gave the Yankees a not too subtle reminder about how life is when Beckett is at the top of his game and Manny Ramirez is belting baseballs over the wall.
Ramirez, who belted the first two homers of his illustrious career at Yankee Stadium back in 1993, is still going strong a decade and a half later. The left fielder clocked two home runs in the first three innings -- career blasts 494 and 495 -- against Yankees right-hander Mike Mussina. In so doing, Ramirez moved into 24th place on the all-time home run list, surpassing Lou Gehrig and Fred McGriff.
"Manny's one of those guys, he's as good a hitter as anyone there is in baseball," said Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter. "When he gets hot, there's no way to get him out. There's no particular pattern to get him."
Beckett, making his third start since coming off the disabled list, allowed six hits and three runs over eight innings, walking one and striking out five.
"I felt good today," said Beckett. "I felt good in my last two starts, too. I'm just getting over that point where you get fatigued in the middle innings. I felt good tonight. The weather really keeps you fresh."
This wasn't a banner night for Mussina, who threw 77 pitches over three innings, giving up seven hits and five runs.
Aside from the fifth, when the Yankees rallied for three runs, Beckett was basically untouched.
Meanwhile, Ramirez was almost touched by a very hard pitch from Yankees reliever Kyle Farnsworth in the top of the seventh, but it went behind the slugger's back. Both sides were warned by the umpires at that time.
Ramirez suspects it might have been retaliation for Sox reliever David Aardsma hitting Alex Rodriguez on Wednesday.
"You know, we hit one of the best players last night, and I guess they want to send a message," Ramirez said. "They need to back up their players, and they did."
Then there was Beckett, who just carved up the Yankees.
"He's great," said Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia. "He gave us a lot of innings [and] helped our bullpen out. He was phenomenal tonight. That's what he does."
Ramirez also did what he does. In fact, he's been doing it for his whole career.
It was Ramirez who got the Red Sox started, belting a solo homer to right-center against Mussina in the top of the second.
And it was again Ramirez who came through with the big hit in a four-run third for the Sox, hitting a towering two-run homer to left.
When the latter blast left the park, Beckett found himself awed.
"I didn't even see it," said Beckett. "I was like, 'Where did it go?' Everyone was like, 'It went about 15 rows up.' It was such a line drive. He's pretty ridiculous. He almost hit a third one, too."
The way Beckett was going, two Ramirez missiles proved to be more than enough.
After generating just three hits against Beckett over the first four innings -- all singles -- the Yankees established something in the fifth. Melky Cabrera started it with a walk. With one out, Johnny Damon smacked a double down the line in right. Derek Jeter (two-run single) and Bobby Abreu (RBI double) ended Beckett's bid for a shutout.
Perhaps the Yankees got teased into thinking Beckett could be had. But he got back to business in the sixth and stifled them over his final three innings of work.
"He's done it so much," said Pedroia. "All last year, it was start after start. Sometimes you take that for granted. You expect that every time out of him. But he still goes out there and makes quality pitches and every chance he goes out there, we know what he's going to do."
The Yankees are starting to get a pretty good idea as well.
"With him, he's always tough," said Jeter. "I don't even care if we score a lot of runs off him, it's not fun at-bats because he throws 97, 98 [mph]. His ball is not straight. He throws two-seamers, he throws sinkers, he was throwing his curveball for strikes. Sometimes you just hope that he's not throwing his offspeed pitches for strikes so you can sit on a fastball, but today he was pretty much throwing them all for strikes."
To Beckett, it's all pretty simple.
"I think the most important thing is executing pitches," Beckett said. "If you're not executing pitches, you're not going to get to eight innings."
And on Thursday, those eight innings were about eight too many for the Yankees.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.