Varitek blasts Red Sox to victory

Varitek blasts Red Sox to victory

MINNEAPOLIS -- Only one Red Sox batter could solve Twins rookie starter Anthony Swarzak on Thursday. Fortunately, Jason Varitek's offensive contributions were all Boston required to sneak by Minnesota, 3-1, on the back of Josh Beckett's third successive stellar start.

Varitek bashed two solo home runs, and there were plenty of other theatrics -- conveniently packaged into a bizarrely entertaining seventh inning -- including four ejections. Each team lost its manager and catcher in the seventh.

Beckett surrendered only one earned run on three hits and four walks in seven innings. He struck out eight, with Joe Crede inflicting the only damage with a solo homer in the second.

"I thought he dealt with some adversity out there; thought there was a tight plate," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "He kept battling, and didn't give in or didn't make a mistake that ends up where we're saying, 'Well this happened and we could have won.' Instead, we did win."

With a 2-1 lead, Jeff Bailey led off the seventh with a double on a bloop to shallow center that Twins second baseman Matt Tolbert was unable to corral in an attempted over-the-shoulder catch. Bailey moved to third on a sacrifice fly. With one out, Dustin Pedroia poked a fly to right field. Jason Kubel came out firing to challenge Bailey's tag. Catcher Mike Redmond applied the tag. Home-plate umpire Todd Tichenor ruled Bailey safe.

"It was one of those things where I knew it was a big run," Bailey said. "I knew that [Kubel] was going to be able to make a good throw because it was right at him. [Third-base coach] DeMarlo [Hale] just said, "Tag," and when he said tag, I [thought], 'All right, I'm going.'

"[Kubel] made a great throw. Red gave me the whole plate, so it wasn't going to be one of those situations where I needed to have a collision. I could sense the ball bearing down on me a little bit, so I decided to just stay on the outside and try to get my hand in there. It turned out to be the best thing."

Redmond jumped up indignantly after the ruling and was almost immediately tossed. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire charged from the dugout and was ejected after a vociferous argument.

"I bet you -- and I haven't had a chance to go look -- I'd bet you that [Bailey] got his hand in there," Francona said. "But I know it was bang-bang and I know it was tough to see. I think it's one of those calls that's hard to get called because the ball beats him. But I thought he got his hand in there.

"I don't care [if he was actually safe]," Francona continued. "As long as they call him safe, I don't care."

Joe Mauer was forced to move from designated hitter to catcher to replace Redmond. This meant that the Twins had lost the DH.

The Red Sox, ironically, lost their catcher and manager to ejection in the inning's bottom half. Tichenor ruled a 1-2 Beckett pitch to Brendan Harris just off the corner for a ball. Beckett yelled something at Tichenor. Varitek raised out of his crouch and turned around to argue. He was heaved, as was Francona, who ran from the dugout to try to get between Varitek and Tichenor.

"I thought [Tichenor] was making it hard on Beckett," Francona said. "I know Beckett yelled in, but 'Tek is protecting Beckett, I'm protecting 'Tek and he got 'Tek. That's what I didn't want to happen. I'm not fast enough to get out there in time. I'd rather him throw me out then 'Tek. 'Tek is going to have a hell of a lot more to do with the outcome than I am. Sometimes you have to state your opinion."

Beckett said he yelled "some baseball terms" at Tichenor. He declined to specify.

"You can't write it, he can't hear it. So there's no reason for me to elaborate," Beckett said.

In the fifth, Varitek lofted a 1-0 Swarzak changeup high over the center-field wall to tie the game at 1. It was Swarzak's first career earned run allowed through 11 innings.

Two innings later -- in his next at-bat -- Varitek pulverized a Swarzak fastball into the upper deck in right-center field. Swarzak threw Varitek three successive fastballs to produce a 2-1 count. The fourth fastball was belt-high over the outer portion of the plate and the veteran catcher got every inch of it.

"That was nice to see," Francona said. "The second one, I told him, that's as good a contact as he has made since last year when we were in Seattle against [J.J.] Putz. That was a beautiful swing."

Varitek -- likely upset at his ejection -- declined to comment after the game.

Beckett improved to 5-2 on the year with a 4.60 ERA. Beckett has allowed only three earned runs over his past three starts, covering 22 innings.

"When he trusts his stuff, he starts getting that movement on that two-seamer, it gives him two-seam, four-seam movement," Francona said. "He threw some good changeups, a couple good breaking balls, so that gives him a different look."

Thor Nystrom is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.