PHILADELPHIA -- There's a spark between Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Josh Beckett, and it carried the Red Sox to a 5-1 rubber-match win over the Phillies on Sunday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park.
"Got a real strong guy there," Boston manager Bobby Valentine said of the decision to play Saltalamacchia in a day game after a night game, just two days after Saltalamacchia went for 12 stitches in his left ear. "I've been talking with Salty, if there was any indication that he needed to be off today, he was off today.
"He and Josh were so in tune last start. Josh was really on tune with Salty one game -- I mean with Kelly [Shoppach] one game -- and he said, 'Why switch a good thing?' So I just took a page out of his book, said 'Why switch a good thing?'"
Before Tuesday, Beckett and Saltalamacchia had only been paired up once this season, and it didn't go well. On Sunday, Beckett tossed 7 2/3 innings and allowed just one run -- the only run he and the backstop have given up in 14 2/3 innings spanning the two starts.
Saltalamacchia, who also went deep Saturday, provided the majority of the Sox's runs with an estimated 446-foot, three-run bomb onto the concourse in center in the third inning.
The Sox (20-21) are a game below .500 and have won eight of their last 10, outscoring opponents, 56-25. Bad times for both the team and Beckett have faded as the team departed for Baltimore by train Sunday afternoon, where they return to Camden Yards for the first time since the last day of the 2011 regular season.
"If you win series, you're obviously going to play above .500," said Beckett, who took no lumps with David Ortiz at first base and Adrian Gonzalez in right again. "If we keep doing that -- the guys got me some runs early. That was huge. I can't say enough about them diving for balls and making good plays."
"I can't speak to [Beckett's] emotions or thoughts or anything like that," Valentine said. "The guy who every day is coming in here seems like he's excited about being here, he's kibitzing with the guys in between starts, he's working hard on his bullpen and his training room. So -- what's there not to like?"
Beckett's fastball reached 93 mph and sat at 91, using his changeup and curveball almost equally. He was particularly efficient, throwing just 87 pitches through seven, and that may given him a chance at a complete game had he not allowed a run in the eighth. Righty Vicente Padilla got a Ty Wigginton grounder to end the eighth with the bases loaded, quashing Philadelphia's best late threat. Beckett left with two on.
Alfredo Aceves threw for a second straight day to finish it, this time in a non-save situation in the ninth.
All of Boston's runs came off Cliff Lee, who did not let Boston score in the last four of his seven innings. Lee, despite being winless, entered the day with a 1.95 ERA.
"They make you throw a lot of pitches," Lee said after 112 pitches. "They foul off good pitches until they get one to hit. It's definitely the sign of a good offense, which they are."
Mike Aviles, 10-for-25 in his last six games, is as scorching hot as Saltalamacchia (11-for-23). The Sox shortstop started the game against Lee with a home run, making him the only Sox player other than Harry Hooper to hit leadoff home runs in consecutive games. Hooper did it in 1913.
Aviles has eight homers, and his two-out RBI single in the second put Boston ahead, 2-0.
The pitch Saltalamacchia crushed in the third for a 5-0 lead wasn't even a fastball, but a 2-0 changeup on the outside part of the plate.
"I would say pretty locked in, judging by the way the ball's coming off his bat and how far it's actually going," Aviles said of Saltalamacchia. "There's not many catchers that can hit for power the way he does."
Beckett also got it done with the bat, notching his 33rd career hit on a near-home run off the wall in center in the seventh, against Lee. That went for a long single. When Beckett last had a hit in 2009, it was one of the two home runs he's hit here lifetime. Boston pitchers had one hit in 21 at-bats in 2011.
Joked Dustin Pedroia with Beckett: "Taking RBIs away from me. You apologize to [my son] Dylan when he comes in. You say sorry."
Beckett made no effort to run on an ensuing double play.
"Station to station, and sometimes you don't make it to your station," Beckett said. "What was I going to do, run back and forth six times? That'd be have been perfect for me. ... They definitely wanted that. I wasn't going to give them what they wanted."