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Beckett twirls gem as tempers flare

Beckett twirls gem as tempers flare

BOSTON -- The best part of his third win of the season for Josh Beckett might be the fact that he is finally finding the rhythm and consistency that -- thanks to a nagging back -- has eluded him all season.

Beckett allowed just three hits, one run and struck out eight batters while walking none as the Red Sox beat the Indians, 3-1, on Tuesday night at Fenway Park.

Beckett, who retired the final 14 batters he faced, hit Shelley Duncan and Shin-Soo Choo, causing the Indians to retaliate and throw behind a pair of Red Sox batters, David Ortiz and Adrian Beltre. After Beltre was thrown at in the eighth, both benches were emptied, but no punches were thrown.

Beckett (3-1, 5.70 ERA) threw 103 pitches (64 strikes), but more importantly finished eight innings for the first time this season, a sign that he might finally be on the road back to being a dominant force in the Red Sox rotation alongside Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz.

"I'm feeling good," Beckett said. "Obviously they wouldn't allow me to do that if things were going backwards. I think up until today, it was a build-up thing. They let me get a little bit extra the other day in Anaheim. The weather was nice, kept me fresh. They've allowed me to build up.

"I had some pitches to go to. I got myself in some counts to where they could have taken advantage, but I had something I could go to, whether it was my changeup or sinker. And my changeup got a lot better as the game went on and my curveball was a lot better today."

After Matt LaPorta singled with one out in the fourth, Beckett went into overdrive, as he retired the final 14 Cleveland batters he faced.

So, was this the best of his 11 starts in 2010?

"I don't know," Beckett said. "I'm still making adjustments and I think the adjustments come with time. Right now, everything is happening good. I threw a 2-0 sinker to somebody and I haven't been able to make that pitch in that situation, obviously, in a long time."

Manager Terry Francona can only hope Tuesday was a sign that the dominant Beckett has returned, three starts after returning from lower back pain that sidelined him for two months.

"Really good," Francona said of his impressions Tuesday. "Real good breaking ball. He threw the two-seamer to the lefties, a pitch that I think is real important to him. When he has that working, it gives him another side of the plate, another look besides the changeup and the cutter he's been throwing pretty well.

Victor Martinez caught Beckett on Tuesday and had the privilege of calling all four pitches in Beckett's arsenal with confidence.

"He got his two-seamer over," Martinez said. "He had his cutter working really good today. He was able to mix his curveball today. He had all his pitches today and was pitching ahead in count. He's just been aggressive, ahead in the count and letting his pitches do the work."

Before the altercation, Mike Lowell provided the highlight of the night in the second with a two-run homer on the first pitch he saw since being activated off the disabled list. Lowell, who homered off David Huff (2-10), hadn't played since June 22 and hadn't homered since June 11.

Beckett's only mistake was allowing a third-inning homer to left by Cleveland catcher Lou Marson, who was called up earlier in the day to replace the injured Carlos Santana, who suffered a sprained left knee in an ugly collision with Ryan Kalish on Monday night.

Bill Hall added his 12th homer in the season in the fourth inning to close out the scoring on the night for the Red Sox, who improved to 3-2 on their seven-game homestand.

After Beckett was ejected for his role in the altercation in the eighth, Jonathan Papelbon pitched a perfect ninth for his 25th.

Mike Petraglia is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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