Beckett goes all the way, but not for win
Sox ace strong for first six, but Angels tag righty in seventh
ANAHEIM -- Complete game? Technically, that is accurate. However, complete frustration would be a more apt description of how Saturday went for Josh Beckett and the Boston Red Sox.
So dominant was Beckett over the first six innings that it recalled memories of another complete game -- the four-hit shutout that he fired against the Angels in Game 1 of last October's American League Division Series. Only this time, everything fell apart in the bottom of the seventh, and that was when a likely victory for the Red Sox turned into a frustrating 4-2 loss to the scrappy Angels, who have the best record in baseball at 59-38.
The Red Sox -- who are now 21-31 on the road -- will try to avoid a sweep on Sunday, when knuckleballer Tim Wakefield takes the ball against Halos righty Jon Garland.
"I felt like I had to battle a little bit more today," Beckett said. "I don't think I had the great stuff [like Game 1 of the ALDS]. They hit some balls off some guys. Guys made good plays. I think I pitched better than my numbers showed today. It is what it is. I pitched just good enough to lose."
Few people could have seen this coming, not the way Beckett had stifled the Angels early on. There hadn't been a whole lot of offense at his back, but the two-run homer by Kevin Youkilis in the top of the second appeared to be enough.
The unraveling started a mere one pitch into that bottom of the seventh, when the great Vladimir Guerrero did what he often does when he gets his arms extended, rifling a solo homer over the wall in left.
Torii Hunter followed with a hard single to left-center that slipped just under shortstop Jed Lowrie's glove. Garret Anderson followed with a sinking line single that Jacoby Ellsbury had no chance at. Pinch-hitter Reggie Willits did his job, sacrificing the runners to second and third with a bunt.
Red Sox manager Terry Francona then ordered for an intentional walk of Howie Kendrick to load them up with one out, but that move did not have the desired effect. Instead, pinch-hitter Erick Aybar blistered Beckett's changeup down the first-base line and into right field for a bases-clearing, game-breaking triple to give the Angels their first lead of the day at 4-2.
"Changeup. Too much of the plate," said Beckett. "I think it was a pretty poor pitch selection, too, on my part. The execution obviously wasn't there."
But it could have been worse. Casey Kotchman stepped to the plate with two outs and smashed what, in most cases, would have been an RBI double. But in this case, center fielder Coco Crisp raced to the wall, jumped up and made a spectacular catch.
"He's done it so many times when I've been out there," Beckett said. "You could pretty much have a highlight reel up there of me throwing my arms up in the air when he makes catches like that. He's pretty good."
Perhaps that grab would serve as a spark for a Boston comeback. The Red Sox did load the bases with two outs in the eighth against Angels setup man Scot Shields, but Lowrie struck out on three pitches.
"We had opportunities, and we didn't cash in on them," said Francona. "Shields made some real good pitches. [Jason Varitek] had a real good at-bat to get to Jed, and Jed got a little overanxious and chased a couple of balls down. We've seen Shields do that to a lot of teams."
What Shields sets up, closer Francisco Rodriguez nearly almost finishes. But this time around, the Red Sox made K-Rod sweat to the finish line.
In another scenario that couldn't help recall memories of last October, Manny Ramirez stepped up against Rodriguez with two on and one out. In Game 2 of that 2007 ALDS, Ramirez hit a titanic walk-off homer against Rodriguez that soared well beyond Fenway Park's Green Monster. But on a 2-1 pitch, Rodriguez induced Ramirez into a popup at second. Mike Lowell followed with an equally harmless popup to third and the game was over.
The defeat dropped the Sox to 2-9 in their past 11 road games.
Beckett gave up nine hits over eight innings, walking one and striking out six.
"His pitch count was down; he was throwing all his pitches for strikes," said Francona. "He gave up the first pitch home run to Vlad and it's like, 'OK, we've seen him do that.' Then they strung some hits together and got in a position where we want Kendrick at least trying to set up a force. And [Beckett] left the changeup -- looks like it kind of wandered back over the plate enough. [Aybar] hits it down the line and everybody scores. Besides that, [Beckett] was terrific."
In the first two games of this series, the Sox have scored five runs, all of which have come via the long ball.
For Youkilis, the home run was No. 17 on the season, establishing a career high.
"I don't look into it that much," said Youkilis. "For me, hopefully, I'll have more to come. As you get older, maybe home runs start coming. But I don't think about it that much. I'm just trying to hit the ball hard. Sometimes, it gets out."
And sometimes, what appears to be a gem in progress for an ace goes up in flames.
When it was over, Beckett wasn't in the mood to rate it on the frustration scale.
"I don't know, they're all pretty frustrating," Beckett said. "I think you can take a lot more good things out of today than if you gave up one run in four straight innings. They all have their frustrating moments. They're all frustrating."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.