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08/12/09 2:37 AM ET

Beckett looks to continue dominance

Detroit (59-53) at Boston (64-48), 7:10 p.m. ET

BOSTON -- Josh Beckett was nearly unhittable when he last faced the Tigers. In two months since, the Red Sox's ace has made such performances a regular occurrence.

Following mixed results in five April starts (2-2, 7.22 ERA), Boston's hard-throwing right-hander found his groove at the beginning of May and hasn't looked back, authoring overall numbers (13-4, 3.12 ERA, 139 strikeouts) that have him among the early front-runners for the American League Cy Young Award.

Wednesday's start against Detroit will mark a reunion of sorts for the 29-year-old workhorse, who took a no-hitter into the seventh inning against the Tigers on June 3 en route to 7 2/3 dominant frames without yielding an earned run.

"He's one of the best in all of baseball, there's no question about that," Detroit manager Jim Leyland said of Beckett that night. "He had a very good game."

Beckett has had quite a few "good" games this season, most of which have come during a string of 17 straight starts since May 5 in which he's logged at least six innings -- in other words, he's pitched precisely like the No. 1 starter the Red Sox envisioned when they traded for him in 2005.

Considering the state of Boston's starting rotation, one that currently features a pair of youngsters in Clay Buchholz and Junichi Tazawa who began the season in the Minor Leagues, Beckett's brilliance couldn't come at a better time for the Sox.

"He kind of got off to a little bit of a bumpy start this year," Boston manager Terry Francona said, "and once he got on track, he's not just content to have a good start and then back off. He has a good start, and then he works harder. That's what it takes.

"We look to him for a lot, and I think he enjoys being that guy. He likes that responsibility."

Pitching matchup
BOS: RHP Josh Beckett (13-4, 3.12 ERA)
The power righty continues to come up large for the Red Sox. Beckett fired seven shutout frames against the Yankees last Friday, taking a no-decision in a game Boston eventually lost in 15 innings. That performance followed a win over the Orioles in which he also tossed seven scoreless innings. Beckett has been nothing short of brilliant at Fenway Park this season, going 7-0 with a 2.58 ERA in 10 starts. Wednesday marks his first appearance against the Tigers since June 3, when he posted a no-hitter through 6 2/3 frames. Beckett won that start, surrendering two hits and three runs, none of which were earned. He walked two and struck out nine.

DET: RHP Armando Galarraga (6-10, 5.23 ERA)
Leyland said last week that he has concerns about Galarraga, whose inability to attack hitters in his past two starts has neutralized what had been a midsummer roll in an otherwise frustrating season. The 27-year-old right-hander has been knocked out before the end of the sixth inning in each of his past two outings, and he was nearly chased in the second last Friday against the Twins before logging five innings in which he threw 109 pitches. His recent nibbling at the fringes of the strike zone makes Wednesday's assignment a tough one for Galarraga, though he posted a quality start in defeat against the Red Sox on June 3 at Comerica Park.

Rehabbing pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka (mild shoulder strain) threw 40 pitches -- all fastballs -- in a bullpen side session on Tuesday in Fort Myers, Fla. The right-hander will throw again on Friday in a 55-pitch outing during which he'll incorporate his full repertoire. Matsuzaka will then advance to 65 pitches on Monday. ... Francona said before Tuesday's game that there has been "some communication" with pitcher John Smoltz over the past few days, but there is no official announcement regarding the veteran right-hander's next course of action after he was designated for assignment by the club Friday. ... Center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury tied Tris Speaker for second place on the club's all-time stolen-base list in a single season on Tuesday night with his 52nd steal of the year. ... Left fielder Jason Bay has homered in two successive games and three of his past four after not going deep in his previous 20 contests.

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Up next
• Thursday: Red Sox (Clay Buchholz, 1-2, 5.33) vs. Tigers (Justin Verlander, 12-6, 3.45), 1:35 p.m. ET
• Friday: Red Sox (Jon Lester, 9-7, 3.67) at Rangers (Kevin Millwood, 9-7, 3.38), 8:05 p.m. ET
• Saturday: Red Sox (Brad Penny, 7-6, 5.16) at Rangers (Derek Holland, 5-7, 5.04), 8:05 p.m. ET

John Barone is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.