Red Sox

Beckett's fourth inning does him in

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Beckett's fourth inning does him in

By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com Follow @maureenamullen
BOSTON There havent been many times this season Red Sox manager Terry Francona has had to get a reliever warming up in the bullpen early in a Josh Beckett start. But, thats what he had to do Thursday afternoon in the fourth inning of the finale of the four-game series with the Royals at Fenway Park, calling upon left-hander Randy Williams.

Beckett cruised through the Royals lineup, facing the minimum number of batters through the first three innings. He recorded at least one strikeout in each of those frames, with two in the third, and appeared comfortably on his way to his fourth win in his last five outings.

But Beckett, with a two-run lead, faced as many batters nine -- in the fourth as he had up to that point in the game. The Royals batted around in the fourth, the first team to do so against Beckett since the Yankees in the sixth inning on May 2, 2010.

He opened the inning with consecutive walks to Alex Gordon and Mitch Maier before giving up a three-run homer to Billy Butler to straightaway center field. After retiring Eric Hosmer, Jeff Francoeur reached on a two-base error by Drew Sutton in left field (originally ruled a double, changed after the game). Then Mike Moustakas double to right scored Francouer for the fourth run. Beckett gave up a single to Matt Treanor before retiring Chris Getz and Alcides Escobar to get out of the inning.

With four runs allowed in the inning, Beckett gave up as many as he had in his previous 23 innings pitched, going back to July 8 against the Orioles.

Beckett took the loss, his first at Fenway this season, as the Sox fell, 4-3, to the Royals, splitting the series against the American League Centrals last-place team. He went seven innings, giving up four runs (three earned) on five hits and three walks with eight strikeouts. Only that post-game scoring change turning what was Francouers fourth-inning double into a two-base error by Sutton salvaged a quality start for Beckett, his 15th in 20 outings.

I thought he was in great control, Francona said. He was efficient, didn't have a high-pitch inning at all. But that one inning, that was kind of out of character. I think it was a 38-pitch inning. Walked two guys in a row, which I dont know, thats probably happened, but I dont remember it. And then he gets ahead of Butler and actually the pitch was down. It just kind of wandered over too much of the plate. But it was not a bad pitch. Just a good hitter. That was enough. They held on.

"It was uncharacteristic that he lost two guys. Sometimes its a little bit of everything. Hes ahead of butler. The ball's down. A good hitter came up at the wrong time. Then we get a fly ball to Sutt Drew Sutton. Tough play but we dont get the out. It kind of extends, makes him work harder. Sometimes it happens. But it was a long inning, long enough to the point where we thought he could keep getting guys out. But we start worrying about him. So, you got to get somebody up."

It was the most runs Beckett has allowed at home this season and the most at home since giving up four to Toronto on Sept. 18, 2010. It was Becketts first loss in a month, since falling in Philadelphia on June 28, and his first loss in nine career starts against the Royals, snapping a five-game winning streak against them.

Thats a pretty good lineup, said catcher Jason Varitek. They swing the bats pretty well.

He wasnt missing by much. Its not like he all of a sudden got wild. Just, we couldnt put either one of Gordon or Maier in the fourth away. But we were just missing, too.

Beckett threw 109 pitches, 72 for strikes. After the fourth inning, he faced just two batters above the minimum, on a Mike Moustakas sixth-inning walk, and a single by Chris Getz leading off the seventh.

The difference between the fourth inning and the others?

They werent hitting balls at guys, Beckett said. With the exception of Butlers ball. He hit that one at that guy sitting up in the stands. Got a couple of hits on balls outer-half instead of the corners. Bad pitches.

The Sox had given Beckett a lead in the third inning, when Jacoby Ellsburys two-run single to right scored Jason Varitek and Yamaico Navarro.

Pretty darn frustrating when your team scores two runs and then you walk the first two guys, Beckett said. Yeah, thats pretty frustrating.

The problem?

Command, Beckett said. Fastball command, breaking ball command, changeup command. I was just kind of all over the place.

I had anormal warm-up. And everything like that. As the game went on it got worse and worse.

Sometimes you make good pitches and they get hit. Sometimes you make bad pitches and they hit them at guys. And thats kind of the story of today, with the exception of one inning.

For the Royals, thats all they needed.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen.

HOFer Joe Morgan's letter urges voters to keep steroid users out of Hall

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HOFer Joe Morgan's letter urges voters to keep steroid users out of Hall

Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan is urging voters to keep “known steroid users” out of Cooperstown.

A day after the Hall revealed its 33-man ballot for the 2018 class, the 74-year-old Morgan argued against the inclusion of players implicated during baseball’s steroid era in a letter to voters with the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. The letter from the vice chairman of the Hall’s board of directors was sent Tuesday using a Hall email address.

Read the full text of Morgan's letter here. 

“Steroid users don’t belong here,” Morgan wrote. “What they did shouldn’t be accepted. Times shouldn’t change for the worse.”

Hall voters have been wrestling with the issue of performance-enhancing drugs for several years. Baseball held a survey drug test in 2003 and the sport began testing for banned steroids the following year with penalties. Accusations connected to some of the candidates for the Hall vary in strength from allegations with no evidence to positive tests that caused suspensions.

About 430 ballots are being sent to voters, who must have been members of the BBWAA for 10 consecutive years, and a player needs at least 75 percent for election. Ballots are due by Dec. 31 and results will be announced Jan. 24.

Writers who had not been covering the game for more than a decade were eliminated from the rolls in 2015, creating a younger electorate that has shown more willingness to vote for players tainted by accusations of steroid use. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens each received a majority of votes for the first time in 2017 in their fifth year on the ballot.

Morgan said he isn’t speaking for every Hall of Famer, but many of them feel the same way that he does.

“Players who failed drug tests, admitted using steroids, or were identified as users in Major League Baseball’s investigation into steroid abuse, known as the Mitchell Report, should not get in,” Morgan wrote. “Those are the three criteria that many of the players and I think are right.”

Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez were inducted into the Hall of Fame in July. They were joined by former Commissioner Bud Selig and retired Kansas City and Atlanta executive John Schuerholz, who were voted in by a veterans committee.

Some baseball writers said the election of Selig, who presided over the steroids era, influenced their view of whether tainted stars should gain entry to the Hall.

Morgan praised BBWAA voters and acknowledged they are facing a “tricky issue,” but he also warned some Hall of Famers might not make the trip to Cooperstown if steroid users are elected.

“The cheating that tainted an era now risks tainting the Hall of Fame too,” he wrote. “The Hall of Fame means too much to us to ever see that happen. If steroid users get in, it will divide and diminish the Hall, something we couldn’t bear.”

© 2017 by The Associated Press

MLB will institute rules to pick up pace, with or without players' agreement

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MLB will institute rules to pick up pace, with or without players' agreement

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Major League Baseball will change rules to speed games next year with or without an agreement with the players' association.

Management proposed last offseason to institute a 20-second pitch clock, allow one trip to the mound by a catcher per pitcher each inning and raise the bottom of the strike zone from just beneath the kneecap to its pre-1996 level at the top of the kneecap. The union didn't agree, and clubs have the right to impose those changes unilaterally for 2018.

Players and MLB have held initial bargaining since summer, and MLB chief legal officer Dan Halem said this week he would like an agreement by mid-January.

"My preferred path is a negotiated agreement with the players, but if we can't get an agreement we are going to have rule changes in 2018 one way or the other," baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said Thursday after a quarterly owners' meeting.

Nine-inning games averaged a record 3 hours, 5 minutes during the regular season and 3:29 during the postseason.