Varitek was the dominant offensive player today with two solo home runs--the second one which was powered to the top right-center deck of the Metrodome--a long freaking way.
While those blasts were obviously a good thing in low scoring game, Tek's best move was in arguing a borderline strike on behalf of a furious Josh Beckett who had been getting that outside corner fastball to righties all day, then suddenly disappeared in the bottom of the 7th inning.
Beckett stared in while slowly walking in to the home plate umpire, turned his head to his side and cursed quite loudly. Tek, immediately recognizing the fury of his pitcher, stood up, turned to the home plate umpire Todd Tichenor and argued the inconsistency of his calls.
The pitch was outside (according the Amica pitch zone), but that's not the point... This is: Varitek was protecting the pitching staff and Beckett.
Tek knows when to stand up for his pitcher and take the heat. It was important to Beckett's future outings and the Sox pitching staff that a starter go as deep as he can and give Beckett the best possible chance for a win, especially in a week of no time off.
Tek was quickly thrown out of the game--so quick that Tito had little time to intervene. Francona had to save face and get thrown out after that so at least Tek would have some company in the visitor's clubhouse.
Beckett, for his part, was dominant today with the fastball. Here's the breakdown of Beckett who faced 27 total batters:
- 111 pitches, 69 for strikes
- 8 Ks, 4 BBs and 1 HR
- 3 Hits Allowed
- 9 groundouts, 4 fly balls
- Lowered his ERA to 4.60
While the walks were higher than he'd want, none of those free passes led to any runs. Overall, Beckett looked like he had sufficient movement on fastballs that were mostly clocked in the 94 to 95 MPH range and had a lot of swing and misses. He used his curveball effectively as needed, and had that Beckett swagger on the mound that made the likes of Joe Mauer look like a minor leaguer in the first inning.
He went right after hitters.
With Varitek's umpire-arguing sacrifice, Beckett finished the 7th with his head up and in good shape to turn the game over to Okajima then Papelbon. Both relievers gave up a hit each and struck out one batter respectively. Another save for Paps .
Sox split in Minnesota. Bring on the Blue Jays.