CLEVELAND As well as Josh Beckett pitched in Cleveland in the 2007 ALCS (eight innings of nasty, one run, 11 strikeouts, five hits in a 7-1 win), its hard to believe he entered Tuesdays game looking for his first career regular season win in Cleveland.
But thats what he got as the Red Sox beat the Indians, 4-2, for the first time this season. Beckett went 6 23 innings, allowing one run on five hits and three walks with six strikeouts. Beckett is now 4-1 with a 1.69 ERA in 10 starts this season.
Through six innings Beckett and Indians starter Fausto Carmona nearly matched each other. But, leading, 2-1, going into the seventh, Sox batters were able to open a lead on Carmona, who had limited them to two runs on just two hits before the frame.
David Ortiz lead off the seventh with a double to center, scoring on Jason Varitek's one-out home run to right. It was Variteks first home run since May 30, 2010.
The Sox took advantage of two free passes by Carmona in the third. Carl Crawford led off the inning, getting hit by a Carmona 92-mph sinker. He stole second, his seventh steal of the season, and went to third on Drew Suttons groundout to Orlando Cabrera at second. After a walk to Jacoby Ellsbury, Jed Lowries sacrifice fly scored Crawford for the Sox first run. With Adrian Gonzalez at the plate, Ellsbury stole second, his 16th stolen base of the season. Gonzalezs double to right scored Ellsbury, extending Gonzalez league lead in RBI to 42.
The Indians lone run off Beckett came in the second inning. Travis Buck led off with an infield single and went to second when Beckett hit Orlando Cabrera with a curveball. After striking out Matt LaPorta (looking) and Jack Hannahan (swinging), Beckett allowed a single to center by Ezequiel Carrera, scoring Buck. It was just the second run he had allowed in his last five starts.
The Indians added a run in the ninth, on Travis Bucks one-out solo home run. It was the first home run Jonathan Papelbon has allowed this season. But Papelbon got Orlando Cabrera to foul out to J.D. Drew and Matt LaPorta on a long fly out to Crawford in left. Papelbon earned his ninth save.
It was Becketts second win in his last seven starts, going 2-0 with a 1.64 ERA in that stretch.
Carmona took the loss, going eight innings, giving up four runs on five hits and a walk, matching a season high with seven strikeouts. He falls to 4-4 with a 4.73 ERA.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Josh Beckett
Beckett continues to string together impressive outings, improving to 4-1 with a league-leading 1.69 ERA in 10 starts. His ERA trails only Floridas Josh Johnson, at 1.64. Beckett has not lost since his first outing of the season April 5 in Cleveland. Since then he is 4-0 with a 1.37 ERA in nine starts. The Sox are 7-2 in those games. In his last five starts he is 2-0 with a 0.60 ERA.
He earned his first career regular season win in Cleveland, improving to 4-5 against them overall.
Beckett has seven quality starts in his 10 outings this season.
"Honestly, it starts with the quality start, said catcher Jason Varitek. We had a different mix of of pitches -- more changeups and cutters -- he didn't have a feel for his curveball. He had a couple of different times (when it was working), but it wasn't as good as he's had it. Lost a little feel for it.
It still comes down to lead with his fastball, his location. He threw quality locations -- set up the slider, cutter and sinker. Those things are huge when you do that and change speeds. He's had to do it different ways. He had to battle his neck the last time leaving after six innings with a stiff neck. Today was more of a finesse day rather than a power day. It should make him feel good because he can pitch in different ways.
HONORABLE MENTION: Jason Varitek
Varitek went 1-for-3 with a home run and two RBI. His home run, to right field, scored David Ortiz and was the difference in the Sox 4-2 win. It was his first homer since May 30, 2010, against Kansas City, a span of 117 at-bats.
Varitek has a five-game hit streak, batting .353 (6-for-17). It is his longest streak since hitting safely in the same number from Aug. 16 22, 2008.
Varitek, though, is satisfied that hes been having quality at-bats.
"I dont know how long its been since last hitting a home run, Varitek said. It was nice...the timing of it. I've had good quality at-bats; whether I hit a home run or not I don't know. I've been having some good at-bats. I couldn't have started any worse. I was 1-for-40 and after that I started having competitive at-bats and not necessarily the results.
He also threw out two would-be base stealers. In the third inning he cut down Shin-Soo Choo trying to steal second, to end the inning. In the fourth inning, Varitek caught Travis Buck attempting to steal second. It was the first time Varitek has thrown out two attempted base stealers in a game since catching Seattles Chone Figgins twice on Sept. 14, 2010.
His two RBI gives him 728 for his career, moving him past Mike Greenwell for sole possession of 13th on the Sox all-time list.
Varitek contributes by making Beckett feel comfortable as well. Beckett has not lost a start when Varitek has been behind the plate for him this season.
THE GOAT: Fausto Carmona
Awfully tough call on this one for a pitcher who performed so well through six innings two runs on two hits. But his seventh inning cost him the game, giving up two runs on two hits.
THE TURNING POINT
With the Sox holding a slim one-run lead in the seventh inning, David Ortiz led off with a double to center field. After J.D. Drew grounded out, moving Ortiz to third. Varitek hit Carmonas first pitch, a 92-mph sinker, into the right field bleachers, his first home run of the season, putting the Sox ahead 4-1. The extra runs would prove valuable when Jonathan Papelbon gave up a one-out ninth-inning homer to Travis Buck.
STAT OF THE DAY: .667
The Sox are 15-7, a .682 winning percentage in May, best in the American League, and 26-22 overall. After starting the season 2-10, they are 24-12 since, a .667 winning percentage. If they were to maintain that pace for the rest of the season -- no, not easy -- they would go 76-38 the rest of the way, finishing the season at 102-60.
QUOTE OF NOTE
I think I won here in the playoffs, pretty big game. October wins are bigger anyway.
--Josh Beckett on his first career regular season win in Cleveland, improving to 1-3, 5.02 ERA in four starts.
Maureen Mullen is on Twitter athttp:twitter.commaureenamullen