Let me just get this right out of the way off the top; I do not like Josh Beckett. Never have. Never will.
Not only did he used to own the Indians, particularly during the 2007 ALCS where he wont both of his starts, but he also won a World Series title with the Florida Marlins in 2003 where he was the MVP. The Marlins having two rings in a seven-year span makes me ill on so many levels.The attitude he exudes, the slow pace in which he works, the way he disdains the media – all of it makes the guy extremely unlikeable in my opinion.
But I digress.
Beckett took the hill last night for the last place Boston Red Sox with a fresh new controversy on his hands (the off-day Golf incident). The Fenway Faithful have already seemed to be a little standoffish towards him since last season’s “Chicken and Beer” collapse in September. He entered this one with a 2-4 record and in dire need of a good performance to build back up some good will in his own city and clubhouse.
The Tribe smelled blood and they jumped all over Beckett. It was a beautiful thing to watch. This is why you can’t get too high or too low after a win or a loss. Remember how poorly the Indians played a night before against the Chicago White Sox? That is now long forgotten after the 8-3 drubbing of the Red Sox in Boston.
Things got started in the second inning. With one out Beckett walked Shin-Soo Choo. Michael Brantley, who has been hitting the ball well of late but seemingly right at people, laced a double to left, moving Choo to third. Casey Kotchman would drive him in to put the Tribe on top 1-0. Now with two out and a man on, it was Jack Hannahan’s time. What did you think was going to happen?
Jackie is a two-out RBI machine. He took a Beckett pitch deep into the right-field seats for a two-run homer. Hannahan would later add a single with a man on second. After last night, his clutch stats improved to .458 (11-24) with runners in scoring position and .600 (9-15) with runners inn scoring position and two outs.
The Sox would answer with a run off of Derek Lowe in the bottom of the second, but the Wahoo Attack was just getting things started.
In the third, Jason Kipnis led things off with a homer to the Red Sox pen in right field. It was his fourth career homer in five games at Fenway Park. Asdrubal Cabrera followed with a single in front of a Travis Hafner walk. The home fans became restless. After Carlos Santana flew out to center, Choo took Beckett to the right-center field gap scoring Cabrera and moving Hafner to third. With Beckett clearly on the ropes, Brantley put the nail in the coffin, roping another double to center, bringing in two more Indians and ending the night for the Sox big right-hander.
He left the field to a well deserved chorus of boos.
It was all over but the shouting from that point forward thanks to Lowe. The 38-year old veteran went six innings, allowing two earned runs while again scattering nine hits. While it seems as though Lowe always puts runners on base, the guy just knows how to work his way out of jams. The win was his fifth on the season, all of which have come after a Tribe loss. That my friends, is what we call a stopper. Scott will have more on him later today.
Back to Brantley. The Tribe’s current center fielder has been a hard luck case of late. While his numbers weren’t showing the hits, he really had put together some nice at-bats over the past few weeks and seemed ready to bust out of his skid. The move to the seven hole has seemed to relax him a bit. Last night, he broke out in a big way with four hits.
“It’s nice when you’re getting that from the bottom of your lineup,” Manager Manny Acta said of Brantley and Hannahan who combined with Kotchman to drive in five of the Indians eight runs.
One interesting sidebar came with Acta’s use of the bullpen last night. Nursing a five run lead in the seventh, Manny went to Sipp, who has been his late inning lefty used in close games. The first batter he faced, Dustin Pedroia, took him deep. Sipp’s struggles against right-handed batters continue to be an issue (they are hitting .455 against him). He recovered to get David Ortiz and Adrian Gonzalez, two lefties, before giving way to Joe Smith who K’d Will Middlebrooks to end the inning. I shouldn’t overlook the fact that Vinnie Pestano threw a whopping 41 pitches in a scoreless eighth inning where he walked the bases loaded, but I will.
Nick Hagadone was called on again to close this one out. Pitching a 1-2-3 easy ninth inning, Hagadone continued to establish himself as a guy who can and should be used in tight spots in the late innings. His ERA now sits a 0.87 and opposing hitters are just 3-34 (.088) against him. He’s got a power arm and thus far his command has been exceptional. When Rafael Perez returns from the DL, there is no way the Indians can send him back to Columbus.
The first place Tribe is now 10-3 on the road and moves onto game two of this four-game series tonight as they send Ubaldo Jimenez (3-2, 4.04 ERA) to the hill. Ubaldo is coming off of his best performance as an Indian where he went seven scoreless innings last Sunday in a win over the Texas Rangers. He will face Boston’s Clay Buckholz (3-1, 9.09 ERA). You remember it was Buckholz whom the Red Sox wouldn’t trade straight up for Victor Martinez in 2009 and instead, the Indians received Justin Masterson and Hagadone.
How has that one turned out thus far for the Tribe?