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The Red Sox were able to hold off the Seattle Mariners Friday night 2-1, but the focal point was the pitcher who didn’t even factor into the decision. Sure, Josh Beckett was back last night, but Red Sox fans couldn’t help but wonder which version of their two-faced ace would actually show up. In his first big league start since May 18, Beckett earned a no-decision in an appearance that looks to be a victory for the pitcher as the Red Sox approach the stretch run.
Beckett looked sharp in 5 2/3 innings of work, allowing just one run over five hits. The pitcher walked three and struck out five as he was limited to 98 pitches, 62 of which were strikes.
After missing two months with back issues, it was unclear how well Beckett would perform. Prior to his last start, Beckett had struggled mightily to start the season, earning just one victory in eight tries, his ERA floating above 7.00. The injury may have happened at the perfect time, and Friday night allowed for a new beginning.
“Yeah, that’s kind of how I have to go at it,” said Beckett. “Obviously I can’t control what happened earlier between the injury and the ineffectiveness. I have to go out there and do my job.”
A healthy and effective Beckett is all the Red Sox can hope for if they hope to make any noise in the post season. As it stands, the Red Sox will need help just to make the playoffs. Beckett provided just that, as the Sox were able to close the Tampa Bay Rays’ Wild Card lead to three games, while the Yankees remain seven games ahead for tops in the East.
Like his record, Beckett left the game at 1-1. In the seventh inning, Bill Hall ripped what would be the game winning homer down the left field line. It was Hall’s second home run in as many nights against his former team, and 10th of the season.
“I feel like I’ve gone out there and done a good job for us, and helped this team win some ballgames,” said Hall. “Hopefully this team gets stronger when everybody gets back.”
The Red Sox bullpen was stellar following Beckett’s departure, and Scott Atchison and Daniel Bard continued their respective dominance. Atchison quietly hasn’t allowed a run in his last five outings, while Bard saw his tally reach 15 straight scoreless appearances. Papelbon came on to record his 22nd save of the season, bouncing back after a blown attempt the night before. Papelbon must certainly feel Bard breathing down his neck as the youngster cruises while the veteran doesn’t appear quite so bulletproof anymore.
“I think he’s been tremendous,” Francona said of Bard. “The hardest thing is to not use him every night. We won’t do that. But no, he’s been very good. He works hard, he looks to me like he will be able to handle a workload. He’s big, strong, he stays in his delivery. He looks great. He also looks to be the future.”
Papelbon gave the Mariners hope in the ninth when Jack Wilson doubled with two outs. As Ichiro Suzuki strode to the plate, Francona ordered an intentional walk be delivered to Seattle’s best hitter.
“He’s a good hitter,” Francona said. “He can do too many things with the bat. It’s never a good feeling putting the go-ahead run, the winning run on base. But he’s too good a hitter. I’d do it again. If it doesn’t work, you maybe open yourself up. I don’t care. We don’t want him to beat us.”
The move played out perfectly as Josh Wilson fanned to end the game.
Was there any doubt? The Red Sox hope to see a lot more of this from him in the future.
He was a non-factor as always, going 0-3 as he continues to steal money from the Red Sox.
W: Scott Atchison (2-1)
L: Jason Vargas (6-5)
SV: Jonathan Papelbon (22)