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Beckett outdueled by D-backs' Haren

Beckett outdueled by D-backs' Haren

BOSTON -- Red Sox manager Terry Francona stressed before Monday's game just how important it was for starter Josh Beckett to pitch deep into the contest after two days of heavy bullpen activity.

Beckett did just that, saving arms in the 'pen after the relief corps pitched 13 2/3 innings over the past two games. Unfortunately for the Red Sox, it was the opposing starting pitcher who stole the victory.

After a 32-minute rain delay, the Sox came up on the short end of a pitchers' duel between Beckett and Dan Haren, dropping a 2-1 decision at Fenway Park. It was Boston's third loss at home in the past four outings.

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"[Haren's] tough, it doesn't matter who he's pitching against," Beckett said. "He throws the ball on the black pretty much every time with all his pitches. That's why he's considered one of the best."

Both pitchers' performances dazzled the sellout crowd on hand. Beckett provided the power -- striking out eight in eight innings -- while Haren systematically worked through the Sox's strong lineup by allowing just two hits over seven shutout innings.

Beckett showed admiration for his counterpart, knowing full well Haren is one of the more elusive pitchers to hit in the game.

"It's fun to sit over there [and watch Haren] when you're pitching, because you're more locked in that day than you are on any other day," Beckett said. "It's fun to watch someone work like that. There's a few pitchers in the big leagues that I enjoy watching and pitching against. ... He's obviously one."

Haren looked on top of his game from the first inning, retiring the first six Red Sox hitters until a leadoff double by Jason Varitek in the third. He mixed his pitches, rarely found himself deep in counts and didn't allow a runner past second base until the seventh inning.

Coco Crisp said Haren sets hitters up with a commanding fastball, then comes back with a splitter to finish off the batter.

"After he gets you down two strikes, you know he's coming after you with [the splitter]," Crisp said. "And then in the middle of the game, he sort of reversed it. You've got your mind set one way and he comes back and pitches you the exact opposite.

"I think that's probably the best split-finger [fastball] in the game."

Beckett matched Haren pitch-for-pitch until the seventh. After a leadoff walk to Conor Jackson, Beckett gave up a single followed by a double to Chris Young. Young's hit scored Jackson from second and broke the scoreless tie.

"It was just a poorly executed pitch to Young," Beckett said. "Tried to do a sinker down and in, but it caught about two inches too much of the plate. He hit it -- hit it well."

With one run across and two runners in scoring position, catcher Chris Snyder grounded a ball to first base, where Brandon Moss took over for Kevin Youkilis before the fifth inning. Youkilis left the contest with a contusion under his right eye after a Mike Lowell throw in between innings caught the Gold Glove Award-winning first baseman on a short hop.

With Youkilis gone and Sean Casey serving a three-game suspension, Moss -- who regularly gets his playing time in the outfield -- made his Major League debut at first base. And when Moss bobbled Snyder's grounder, Mark Reynolds crossed the plate for the eventual winning run.

"That was pretty much a candy-hop that I got," Moss said. "It couldn't have been an easier ground ball to field. I just took my eyes off of it and saw the runner taking off for home and tried to do too much too soon."

Manager Terry Francona saw it a bit differently.

"That's getting thrown into the action," Francona said. "We're fortunate that we had him here tonight. That's why we have Casey, but we didn't have Casey tonight."

With a two-spot on the board and leading, 2-0, Haren gave way for reliever Tony Pena in the eighth. Pena gave up a walk and back-to-back singles to load the bases. After a sacrifice fly by J.D. Drew cut the D-backs' lead in half, Manny Ramirez stepped to the plate with the game-tying run on second.

After working the count full, Ramirez lined a shot that appeared destined for left field. Reynolds snagged the liner at third to retire the side.

"He almost killed the third baseman," Mike Lowell said of Ramirez's ball. "I think we would've preferred that to be two feet to the left or right. But he hit it hard, and you can't put a steering wheel on it afterwards. It looks like an out, but that's a great at-bat."

Escaping the eighth and holding the lead, Arizona earned a win on the positive side of a masterful duel.

"You've got two of the best pitchers in the game right there going at it," Crisp said. "Someone has to come out with the victory."

Mark Remme 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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