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Beckett remains perfect for '07

Beckett remains perfect for '07

BOSTON -- Now that Jonathan Papelbon has a blemish on his 2007 stat sheet, Josh Beckett has taken on the role of Mr. Perfect for the Red Sox. The way he's looking at the moment, it might be a while before he relinquishes it.

Beckett has taken the ball six times this season and now has six wins next to his name. This, after mowing down the A's with a workmanlike 6-4 victory in which he allowed six hits and three runs over seven innings while walking two and striking out seven.

The last Sox pitcher before Beckett to win his first six starts in a season? Rocket Roger Clemens, back in 1991.

Beckett is on a rocket ride of his own at the moment, leaving opposing hitters swinging at air.

"Any time you're mentioned in the same sentence as very likely the greatest pitcher to ever live, it's nice," said Beckett.

Like Clemens, Beckett is a hard thrower from Texas. And he capped his night by getting out of a two-on, two-out jam by blowing a 97-mph fastball past a frozen Mark Ellis.

"I think in those situations it's something that, knock on wood, I've always kind of had that little extra in reserve," said Beckett. "As long as you go to it at the right time, it can be very beneficial."

A quick pep talk from pitching coach John Farrell right before that final K didn't hurt.

"It was nice," said Beckett. "Johnny came out there and just told me to keep making pitches. He said, 'Your stuff is still there. You don't have to give any extra. Trust your stuff.' I ended up getting that punchout, so that was nice."

Red-hot lefty Hideki Okajima, fresh off being named the American League Rookie of the Month for April, fired a scoreless eighth.

Okajima has pitched in four of Boston's last five games.

"He probably needs a day or two down," manager Terry Francona said. "He's been pitching a lot. It's so easy for me to want to keep going and get greedy. We need to be prudent, and we will be. We'll use some discretion."

And with Papelbon unavailable for duty one night after Tuesday's 35-pitch blown save, Mike Timlin did the honors in the ninth. It was the first save of the year for Timlin, and No. 140 of his career.

Timlin was helped by a sensational lunging catch by Coco Crisp, who raced to the gap in right-center, stretched his arm as far as he could and hauled in a liner off the bat of Jason Kendall. It was Crisp's second highlight-reel catch in as many nights.

"Well, this catch was harder than [Tuesday] night's catch," said Crisp. "I didn't see the ball go into the glove. I was just stretched completely out. Last night I was able to watch the ball go into the glove."

If not for Beckett catching a spike and feeling some slight stiffness in his back, he probably would have gone back out for the eighth.

The Sox were the aggressors early.

Julio Lugo opened Boston's first rally by drawing a leadoff walk in the third and then stealing second. Kevin Youkilis moved Lugo to third on an infield hit, and David Ortiz made it 1-0 with a fielder's-choice grounder to second. The Sox got some life in the fourth, when A's center fielder Ryan Langerhans -- who was traded to the Nationals after the game -- dropped Crisp's line drive for a two-base error. Lugo didn't let the gift go to waste, lacing an RBI single up the middle to increase the lead to two runs.

"Lugo told me, 'Let's go, get on second so I can drive you in.' He came through," said Crisp.

In what has become a recurring theme, so did Beckett.

The righty was perfect through four but surrendered a leadoff single to Mike Piazza in the fifth. Dan Johnson doubled into the left-field corner to put runners on second and third and nobody out. Beckett looked primed to get out of it, striking out Bobby Crosby and Danny Putnam. But Kendall belted a two-run single up the middle, and suddenly, it was a tie game. The A's took the lead an inning later on Johnson's two-out RBI single to right.

In a painful moment for the A's, the inning ended when Sox third baseman Mike Lowell lunged to the bag to tag Piazza. A collision ensued, and Piazza got the worst of it, straining his right shoulder. He could be out four to six weeks.

"It was going to be a footrace, so I literally just dove in front of the bag," said Lowell. "I figured the worst that was going to happen was he was going to spike me. Trying to avoid the tag and all that, he kind of went in head-first, and I landed on his shoulder. You never want to injure anyone. I called over and said I hope he was all right. He said he appreciated it. I'm trying to make the play. Nothing intentional."

The Red Sox roared right back in their half of the sixth. Jason Varitek led off with a single, prompting the removal of A's starter Chad Gaudin, who threw 89 pitches. Crisp greeted reliever Jay Marshall with a double to left, putting Alex Cora in position to drive Varitek home from third with a grounder to short to tie it up. Lugo put the Sox back on top with a sac fly to center.

The quick bounceback has become an early-season trait of the Red Sox, who are now 17-9.

"That's a good characteristic of a winning team," Francona said. "Rather than hang your head, come right back and get on the offensive."

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

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