Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Game 70: Josh Beckett and the Big Bang

Final Score: Boston Red Sox 4, Atlanta Braves 0

I'm convinced that for the first third of last night's game, the Sox and Braves played in Bizarro World, a land where - along with Bizzaro versions of Superman and Lois Lane - Tim Hudson (6.26 ERA and a WHIP of 1.62 over 69 innings against Boston) dominates the Red Sox and Josh Beckett (2.45 ERA and a WHIP of 1.21 over 88.1 innings against Atlanta) struggles to keep Braves runners off the bases. By the end of the third inning, the Braves had four base runners to the Red Sox one. One of these runners even made it to third base before Beckett finally escaped, leaving me (and many of you too, I'd guess) to wonder when the (Bizarro) tomahawk would finally drop and draw first blood.

Fortunately, Atlanta would have no such luck. With two outs in the fourth, Big Papi strode to the plate and took the fifth pitch he saw 380 feet for his twelfth home run, shouldering open a crack in the walls of reality and returning the game back to its normal, non-Bizarro context. Ortiz's home run set the stage for the next two innings, where Beckett turned into the balls-out nasty pitcher we know and love, hit a double to score Alex Cora, came around to score as part of a two-run fifth and generally made life miserable for his hosts. He left after a 48-minute rain delay skewed time between the sixth and seventh innings, secure in his tenth win and continued awesomeness.

Even with the reassuring news that Schilling's arm isn't about to fall off, Beckett's slide-stopping performance last night was psychologically important: temporarily down a key member of the staff, facing a long road trip to parts out West with the series win on the line, Boston needed a win to keep things on the positive and out of another slump. Tonight the JT Killer looks to build on that positive note a win in game three.