08/06/08 1:22 AM ET
Beckett, offense click like old days
Ace mows down Royals as Sox's offense bangs out 13 hits
By Ian Browne / MLB.com
Earlier in the day, "clicking" was being used in an entirely different context, as slugger David Ortiz said that was what he felt in his recovering left wrist in the ninth inning of Monday night's loss.
But by several hours before gametime, Ortiz pronounced himself as "fine." He was fine enough to deliver Boston's first run of the night -- an RBI single in the first.
"This stuff is tricky," said Ortiz after the game. "Today I felt fine. I was swinging. Don't listen to me."
From there, the Boston bats clicked away, bashing hits all over the park. It was a game-plan right out of 2007. With ace Josh Beckett on the mound, the Red Sox pounded the baseball.
And as the offense kept supplying run support, Beckett (6 2/3 innings, four hits, two runs, seven strikeouts) put up a steady succession of quality innings.
Though it is true Beckett (10-8, 4.08 ERA) entered the night with 5.5 runs per game of support -- just shy of Jon Lester's 5.6 for the team lead -- the stat was a tad misleading.
In Beckett's eight losses, the Red Sox scored a total of 10 runs while he was in the game.
"Last year was one of those years where everything goes right," Beckett said. "Hopefully we can keep that up."
This was one of those nights where nearly everyone was in the groove. Jason Bay led the 13-hit attack, going 4-for-5 with two runs, two doubles and two RBIs. The new left fielder is 9-for-21 since coming to Boston in the blockbuster deal for Manny Ramirez.
"He's a good hitter, bro," Ortiz said of Bay. "He's a good hitter. We needed that."
The hits were still coming for the Red Sox after the game, as Ortiz nailed Bay with a pie to the face after his postgame interview with NESN.
Bay is displaying the comfort of someone who has been with the Red Sox for a few years instead of a few days.
"It felt pretty good to go out and get a win and personally have some success tonight," said Bay. "I'm hoping that I can keep riding this wave and we can keep winning."
The Red Sox, who had lost five of six games before the trade, are 4-1 in the first five games with Bay.
With the Rays picking up a win over the Indians, the Red Sox remained three games back in the American League East.
After chipping away with one-run rallies in the first, fourth and fifth, the Red Sox produced two more in the sixth and three in the seventh to take a commanding 8-1 lead.
The most bizarre run of the night came in that game-breaking seventh, when Bay clocked a fly ball to deep left-center. Center fielder Mitch Maier raced back and got a glove on the ball right in front of the wall. But he knocked it literally on top of the wall. As the ball rolled on the wall, left fielder Ross Gload gently knocked it back in to play. If it rolled just inches backward on to the grass behind the wall, it would have been a home run.
It was reminiscent of the triple that Kevin Youkilis hit against the Yankees on July 4, a ball that rested on the wall before bouncing back into play.
"That was a pretty unique play," said Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek. "We've been a part of some weird plays out on the fence this year. The ball hadn't carried as well here as it normally does, especially to left field. He really tattooed the ball and it stayed in. Gload made a phenomenal play just pulling that ball back in and just keeping it from being a homer, because I think it was going to roll the other side."
Jed Lowrie followed with a two-run triple, allowing Beckett to finish his night in stress-free fashion, as he so often did a year ago.
With Julio Lugo out until perhaps September with a severe strain of his left quadriceps, Lowrie has fit in every bit as seamlessly as Bay.
"Boy, he's taking some nice swings," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "He made a nice play in the hole. He swings at strikes. He's been good."
Trying to find the right combination in his lineup, Francona had J.D. Drew in the leadoff spot and Youkilis hitting cleanup. Mike Lowell and Bay both moved down a notch, to fifth and sixth, respectively.
Jacoby Ellsbury had a nice night at the bottom of the order, producing two hits and stealing his first two bases since July 1.
But as important as all the offense was, there are few things more vital to the Red Sox than a fully-functioning Beckett.
"He's had a lot of starts where we haven't scored him a whole lot of runs," said Varitek. "This was the first time we scored him some runs in a while. He's the hugest part of our starting staff."
Is that because the Red Sox need Beckett to be their No. 1 pitcher?
"He is our No. 1," said Varitek. "He is. People follow his lead quite a bit. That's happened quite a bit in the past and it will continue to happen."
Beckett came out after 90 pitches and the Royals threatening in the seventh. But rest assured, the hot and humid Kansas City weather did not faze the Texan.
"None," said Beckett. "I think growing up in Texas, playing games in 100-degree weather [helped]. I think one time we started a game in Brownsville and it was 117 degrees. We played a doubleheader that day. It didn't really affect me."
"He did a great job," Bay said of Beckett. "He's one of the best guys in the league. He's fun to play behind. Ever since I got here, we haven't given up more than four runs. It's fun to play behind starting pitching like that gives you a chance to win every night."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.