Playoff-tested Beckett off his game
Red Sox ace turns in shortest postseason start of his career
BOSTON -- It was, in theory, the perfect scenario. Just one win away from clinching the American League Division Series against the Angels at home with Josh Beckett on the mound was the ideal situation for the Red Sox on Sunday.
Beckett, after all, is widely revered as one of the top postseason pitchers in the past decade. This one didn't end so promising for the 28-year-old Sox ace.
"They're definitely a tough lineup," Beckett said.
The Halos chased the vaunted Red Sox hurler after five innings in which he allowed four runs on nine hits, walking four and striking out six. He tossed 106 pitches, leaving the game in a 4-4 tie that ended in a 12th-inning, 5-4 Angels win.
Beckett, who did not start Game 1 due to a right oblique injury, entered the contest with a 6-2 record and a 1.73 ERA in the postseason. He earned a no-decision in Sunday's loss.
"I thought they really made him work," Boston manager Terry Francona said. "Right from the very first pitch of the game, he was out of the stretch."
It was the shortest postseason outing of his career -- the previous being six innings in Game 1 of the 2007 AL Championship Series against the Indians. The nine hits were also the most he's allowed in a playoff contest.
When it came down to it, Beckett's performance hinged on a slew of walks, coupled with big hits from Angels bats that were silent leading into Sunday's contest.
Catcher Mike Napoli, hitless with just one RBI in the first two postseason games in Anaheim, slapped two homers -- one in the third and another in the fifth -- over the Green Monster off Beckett, and he also accounted for three RBIs.
Chone Figgins, batting .200 for the series, went 3-for-4 against the Sox starter and scored a first-inning run.
The Angels showed patience with each and every at-bat against Beckett, working deep into counts and not chasing pitches that were located just outside the strike zone. The results were the walks, leading to long innings when coupled with four extra-base hits allowed.
Off his game
|Josh Beckett struggled with his control in Game 3 of the ALDS, allowing four runs on nine hits in a 106-pitch outing.|
The Halos tediously battled in each at-bat, raising Beckett's pitch count much more quickly than the ace is used to in the postseason. They found ways to put runners on, threatening to score. In the first and fourth innings, Beckett found himself with the bases loaded. To his credit, only one run scored as a result.
"He had to battle a little bit," catcher Jason Varitek said. "But he was able to leave things close enough where we were able to keep going. He was strong; he was just a little bit off."
The right-hander walked two alone in the first inning. During a 30-pitch first frame, Beckett threw just 14 strikes en route to walking home Figgins as the first run of the game.
Beckett said that oblique injury wasn't a factor -- especially in his early-inning struggles -- but rather a tendency to want to avoid giving up an early run after an early Figgins extra-base hit.
"When you get a leadoff double, you've got to work pretty hard to not let them score," he said. "He ended up scoring on a walk. I think it was just me trying to keep them off the board.
"You end up trying to be a little more fine and end up walking a guy in."
It was the most free passes that Beckett has allowed in a postseason game, and more than his previous five playoff outings combined. Over that five-game span, Beckett boasted a 0.92 ERA.
Beckett earned the reputation as a feared October pitcher during the 2003 Florida Marlins' World Series run. He pitched magically in the National League Championship Series against the Cubs that year, then posted a complete-game shutout in Game 6 of the World Series, clinching the title against the Yankees.
The righty went 4-0 for the Red Sox during their 2007 title run. If he gets another chance to pitch this postseason, Beckett certainly will look for the command he showed in his previous two trips to the playoffs -- the dominance that gave him his reputation.
Mark Remme is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.