Beckett, bats lift Sox

Beckett, bats lift Sox

TORONTO -- The venue doesn't seem to matter. Neither does the opponent. Looking for the one early-season constant for the 2007 Red Sox? It is Josh Beckett turning in a dominant performance and the offense backing him up with a generous dose of run support.

The latest round of filthy pitches from Beckett lifted the rolling Red Sox to a 9-2 thumping of the beleaguered Blue Jays on Tuesday night at Rogers Centre. Beckett (7-0, 2.51 ERA) became the first Boston pitcher since Mickey Harris in the pennant-winning season of 1946 to win his first seven starts.

"I definitely think I have a lot of confidence going into each start right now," said Beckett. "It's easy when the balls are falling where you want them to fall. It's those times when you get too far ahead of yourself with thinking that you get yourself in trouble. I'm just taking it one pitch at a time and playing the percentages."

Seven starts in, Beckett is batting 1.000.

It didn't start out that promising. The first pitch Beckett threw was deposited over the wall by Jays leadoff man Alex Rios.

"Any time somebody hits the first pitch that they see of the day, period, for a home run, you tip your cap," Beckett said. "I still think that's one of the most impressive things you can do on a baseball field is to go up there in your first at-bat whether you're leading off or whatever and hit the first pitch good enough to hit it as a home run. Tip your cap and move on."

Move on Beckett did. He basically put the Jays in silent mode the rest of the way. For the night, Beckett allowed five hits and a run over seven innings. He walked one and struck out five.

"I'm just executing pitches," said Beckett. "To give up one run to that lineup is a feat in itself. Just focus on making pitches, that's it."

In a clear case of teams going in opposite directions, it was the ninth win in the last 12 games for the Sox, while the Jays have lost seven in a row.

For manager Terry Francona, it was win No. 300 in a Boston uniform. He became the 10th Red Sox manager to notch that many victories.

"I didn't even know," said Francona. "It means we've had good teams here is what it means."

Francona always prefers to defer to the players and this was a night when a lot of them stepped up.

STRONG STARTS
Josh Beckett is just the sixth Red Sox pitcher in club history to win his first seven starts in a season.
Starts won
Pitcher
Year
8 Babe Ruth 1917
8 Dave Ferriss 1945
8 Roger Moret 1973
7 George Winter 1901
7 Mickey Harris 1946
7 Josh Beckett 2007
For, as usual, there were plenty of heavy hitters who backed Beckett's effort. The Red Sox clubbed four home runs in the first three innings against Victor Zambrano to take an 8-1 lead on a night that was basically stress-free for the visitors.

In Beckett's seven starts, the Red Sox have scored 50 runs while he's been in the game.

"It's nice. It's awesome," Beckett said. "The guys are comfortable and they're going out there producing."

Don't be so sure there isn't a cause in effect at work here.

"Once he got that lead, he did his thing," said Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia. "When you're playing defense behind him, it's fun because every pitch is in the strike zone. He's always attacking. It makes everything go smooth."

Kevin Youkilis, who later left the game with a left leg contusion, got the scoring started for the Sox by drilling a solo shot to left-center in the first inning. Pedroia, who has busted out of his slump in a big way the last few days, launched a three-run shot in the second.

"When we get a three-run homer out of the nine-hole, and I'm not getting on Pedroia, but when you get a three-run homer out of that part of the order, that's what makes your offense, I think, go," said Francona. "We're going to get offense from David [Ortiz] and Manny [Ramirez] and J.D. [Drew]. When you get big hits from guys down in the order, that's huge."

It was in the third that Boston broke the game open. Mike Lowell belted a three-run shot and Jason Varitek (4-for-4, three runs scored) made it back-to-back long balls with a solo shot to center.

For after getting that huge edge, Beckett might as well have pitched from a rocking chair. Things are clicking equally for Beckett and the Red Sox.

"Beckett works quick, too," said Francona. "He gets the ball and goes and throws it. I think there's a lot to that. Sometimes it's probably good fortune. It keeps guys on their toes."

Up next for Beckett will be a matchup with the Orioles on Sunday at Fenway. In that one, he will try to join Babe Ruth (1917), Boo Ferris (1945) and Roger Moret (1973) as the only pitchers in club history to come out of the gate with eight wins in as many starts.

"I'm proud I have seven wins," said Beckett. "We get paid to win ballgames."

And the Red Sox are paying back their red-hot righty with a barrage of offense.

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