Beckett pitches, swats Sox to victory

Beckett pitches, swats Sox to victory

PHILADELPHIA -- Didn't someone say that the Red Sox lose a hitter when they played under National League rules? It didn't work out that way on Saturday night at Citizens Bank Park. Not even a little bit.

Just check out the performance of Josh Beckett, who overshadowed his strong pitching work by breaking out the lumber in most dramatic fashion against the Phillies. Beckett's arm and bat gave the Phillies a 1-2 knockout punch, leading the Red Sox to an 8-4 victory.

By the time Beckett strode to the plate for his at-bat in the top of the seventh, he had already delivered a game-tying RBI single earlier in the game. This time, he shook even more rust off of his bat, belting a solo homer to left-center off Phillies right-hander Brett Myers to give the Sox a 5-1 lead.

Did you expect the Boston dugout to erupt in celebration? That wouldn't be any fun.

"Nobody said anything," said Red Sox shortstop Alex Gonzalez. "Everybody sat down [and said], 'Don't shake hands with him.' It was funny."

A career .139 hitter entering this one, Beckett unloaded on a 2-2 pitch from Myers and sent it several rows deep into the stands. It was the type of swing that precious few Philadelphia hitters were able to take against Beckett for most of the night.

"You never expect to hit a ball off of a guy like that," Beckett said, who took Nationals righty John Patterson over the wall in Washington last year. "I just hit my bat with it and it carried for me. It was exciting."

Over seven innings (plus three batters in the eighth), Beckett scattered six hits and gave up three earned runs while striking out four. It was the third win in as many starts for the Sox righty, who ran his record to 6-1.

For Beckett, exclusively a National Leaguer until this season, the bigger story was his bat. This was his second career homer, and no Red Sox pitcher had gone deep since Marty Pattin, who clubbed a Bill Parsons pitch over the wall on Sept. 26, 1972.

"That's an old teammate of my dad's," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said of Pattin. "Little blond guy. I don't know, I was only eight or nine, but I remember him."

Beckett was not bold enough to call this type of hitting performance. Not after his unspectacular BP performance on Friday, when the soft offerings of first-base coach Bill Haselman were too much of a challenge.

"Has was actually throwing balls by me," said Beckett. "I just had to go up there and as soon as he dropped the rosin bag, try to get a piece of it."

Sox starter Matt Clement also aided Friday's win, getting a base hit and scoring on a homer by David Ortiz.

Beckett and Myers were locked in a pretty good duel early, with the only break in the stalemate coming when Chase Utley launched a solo shot to right to give the Phillies a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the third.

Of all the hitters the Red Sox were looking for a boost from, Beckett was ninth on the list. But after Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins created an opportunity by committing a two-base error on a ground ball by Alex Gonzalez, Beckett stepped up with an RBI single to right-center that tied the game.

With that knock, which was perhaps more important in the context of the game than the homer, Beckett rewarded the faith of Francona.

"I was actually surprised that [Francona] told me to swing," said Beckett. "He looks like a genius now. That's nice for him to believe in me like that. I don't think I've ever had that before. I guess coming from the National League, he thought that I can hit. I guess he hasn't looked at my career numbers."

Kevin Youkilis and Mark Loretta kept the pressure on with singles to load the bases, and Ortiz drove in Beckett with a sacrifice fly to right to give the Red Sox their first lead at 2-1. Manny Ramirez walked to load them up again, and Trot Nixon cranked a two-run single just past the glove of Utley and into right.

There would be several additions to the lead later in the game, including not just Beckett's blast, but also a two-run shot from No. 8 hitter Gonzalez.

"I just put a good swing on that pitch," said Gonzalez. "I put on a good swing on the ball, and I jumped on the first pitch and got a home run."

And it turned out to be large. J.T. Snow, who replaced Ortiz for defensive purposes, let an Utley ground ball go through his legs to start the eighth. That opened up the floodgates, as Ryan Howard bopped a three-run homer off Beckett to make it 8-4.

"It's a shame that he gave up the three-run homer," Francona said. "He gave up the home run to Utley and then he really put it in gear and threw the ball well. And then he gets the ground ball that should be an out, and then he gives up a three-spot that changes his line, but I thought he threw the ball good."

Beckett felt in command. Unlike his hitting, his pitching contained a lot more skill than lucky placement.

"I had pretty good stuff today," said Beckett. "I think I only made one mistake, and that was to Utley. The pitch that Howard hit was actually where I wanted it. He's just a big strong kid who got enough of it."

But that Howard homer wasn't nearly enough to take away from Beckett's big night at the office.

"Unbelievable," said Gonzalez, who also teamed with Beckett in Florida. "I know this guy, he hit a home run with the Marlins. He's a good hitter. He got two RBIs, two base hits, two runs. You have to be careful with this guy. He doesn't want to do [anything] but be ready to hit."

After 11 months without taking a swing that mattered, Beckett was right back in the swing, driving his team to victory.

Ian Browne is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.