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Hot Beckett takes on hotter A-Rod

Hot Beckett takes on hotter A-Rod

His ninth-inning lineout in Friday's game notwithstanding, Alex Rodriguez is hotter than every living ballplayer right now. The Yankees third baseman managed to treat Fenway Park landmarks like targets on Friday night, giving Green Monster and bullpen denizens a couple of unwanted souvenirs.

There is no hotter ballplayer. And yet Red Sox starter Josh Beckett is unique among pitchers as the owner of both a steady, if limited, track record against Rodriguez -- who has only one hit in nine career at-bats against Beckett -- and one of baseball's best pitching records in the early going of 2007.

Against the hoopla of Saturday's nationally televised game, the Red Sox's steady second ace will have a lot to think about. There's more to baseball's most expensive team, Red Sox manager Terry Francona warned on Friday, than its most expensive player.

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"He's about the best hitter in baseball right now," Francona said of Rodriguez. "Saying that, if you walk him enough, the guy on deck's going to hurt you. At some point, you've got to get people out, whether they're hot, not hot or in between."

In the Red Sox's favor, aside from a potential tide of momentum from Friday night's 7-6 thriller of a win, in which the bottom third of the Boston lineup spurred a comeback against Mariano Rivera, is the pitching matchup. Against Beckett, New York will start little-known right-hander Jeff Karstens, who made six starts last year in his first season, none of them against the Sox.

Karstens missed the first three weeks of the 2007 campaign with right elbow tendinitis, and until Thursday, he was rehabbing in Tampa, Fla.

But will it matter? Beckett last faced the Yankees last Aug. 19 and gave up nine runs in 5 2/3 innings. This year, New York starts just as "thick" a lineup from top to bottom, as Francona has put it.

"They do it better than anybody in baseball," Francona said. "There's no deep breath. And you can get hurt because of that."

Pitching matchup
NYY: RHP Jeff Karstens (2-1, 3.80 ERA in 2006)
Karstens will be making his 2007 debut after tightness in his right elbow consigned him to the disabled list. He faced six different AL teams last year after joining the Yankees, but the Red Sox weren't one of them. The Yankees were 3-3 in Karstens' starts.

BOS: RHP Josh Beckett (3-0, 1.50 ERA)
Beckett has won his first three starts for the second straight season, but as Yankees fans will point out, the 26-year-old's numbers took a dive after April 2006. Last Aug. 19, the Yankees tagged Beckett for nine runs in 5 2/3 innings at Fenway Park, where Beckett established a career worst with nine walks. Nonetheless, Beckett is currently one of the AL's hottest pitchers, and he appears to have gained better command of his breaking pitches this season.

Player to watch
Red Sox center fielder Coco Crisp burst out of his prolonged early-season slump in a big way on Friday, knocking home the game-tying runs against Rivera with a two-run triple. And yet both of his hits, including the triple, didn't leave the ground. Will Crisp sustain his success?

On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• FOX-25

On radio
• WRKO-680 AM, Spanish Baseball Network (Espanol)

Up next
• Sunday: Yankees (LHP Chase Wright, 1-0, 5.40) at Red Sox (RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka, 1-2, 2.70), 8:05 p.m. ET
• Monday: Blue Jays (RHP Tomo Ohka, 0-2, 7.02) at Red Sox (RHP Tim Wakefield, 2-1, 1.35), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Tuesday: Blue Jays (RHP Roy Halladay, 2-0, 2.37) at Red Sox (RHP Julian Tavarez, 0-1, 6.75), 7:05 p.m. ET

Alex McPhillips is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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