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Beckett, Sabathia struggle on Opening Night

Beckett, Sabathia struggle on Opening Night

BOSTON -- They are not only aces for their respective teams, but two of the elite pitchers in the game. With Josh Beckett and CC Sabathia facing off on Opening Night, nobody would have been surprised if the Red Sox and Yankees had kicked off Major League Baseball's 2010 season with a 2-1 classic in either direction.

Then again, the Red Sox and Yankees have a habit of doing the unexpected, and on Sunday night, that consisted of both Beckett and Sabathia turning in subpar performances.

As it turns out, neither one of them factored in the decision of a game in which each side drilled 12 hits and the Red Sox reeled off a 9-7 win.

For the first few innings, it looked like it would be a one-sided matchup, with Sabathia taking all the accolades.

Beckett labored, giving up back-to-back homers to Jorge Posada and Curtis Granderson in the second, and then surrendering three runs in the fourth. He was gone after 4 2/3 innings, having walked three and struck out just one.

"I felt good," Beckett said. "I had no physical issues at all. The atmosphere was great. I felt good. It just came down to making pitches when you need to, and time and time again, I couldn't do that. Unfortunately, that got me a high pitch count and I was behind in the count. I had to give into some pretty good hitters and they made me pay."

Beckett bumbles vs. Bombers
How Josh Beckett has fared in his five career Opening Day starts
Date Opp. IP H ER BB K
4/4/10 NYY 4 2/3 8 5 3 2
4/7/09 TB 7 2 1 3 10
4/5/05 ATL 6 2 0 3 6
4/6/04 MON 7 4 1 3 9
3/31/03 PHI 2 2/3 5 2 4 1
Totals 27 1/3 21 9 16 28

But the biggest price Beckett paid was having a 5-1 deficit to a pitcher of Sabathia's caliber. Early on, the lefty had performed as advertised, allowing just one hit over the first four innings.

What happened? The Red Sox were persistent. They got one back in the fifth and three more in the sixth to tie it.

"I was behind a lot today," said Sabathia. "I had good stuff early. I just started nibbling a little too much. I had a lead and I should have just thrown it over the plate and said, 'Here it is, hit it' -- instead of trying to pitch a little too much. It hurt me. I normally don't do that, especially with a lead. It was just one of those kinds of days today where I lost focus."

And nobody was more grateful than Beckett, who seemed all but sure to be headed toward a loss.

"It's awesome," Beckett said. "They definitely picked me up today. That was definitely nice to see. Obviously, any time you make a start and it doesn't go the way you [planned, you] want the team to still win the game. It just kind of speaks to the character of a lot of guys on this team."

CC only so-so early on
How CC Sabathia has fared in his seven career Opening Day starts
Date Opp. IP H ER BB K
4/4/10 @ BOS 5 1/3 6 5 2 4
4/6/09 @ BAL 4 1/3 8 6 5 0
3/31/08 CWS 5 1/3 6 5 3 7
4/2/07 @ CWS 6 8 3 1 2
4/2/06 @ CWS 2 1/3 3 3 1 3
4/5/04 @ MIN 7 2 0 4 9
3/31/03 @ BAL 7 8 2 1 3
Totals 37 1/3 41 24 17 28

As for the possibility Beckett was distracted by his contract situation -- a four-year extension with the Red Sox could be imminent -- he scoffed at that notion.

"It never crossed my mind," Beckett said. "I'm out there trying to make pitches. I'm not worried about off-the-field stuff or exterior things. This is a good lineup. You make pitches, you get outs. If you don't, you get hit."

Sabathia was a victim of the same fate, misfiring too many pitches against a quality opponent.

"It was definitely all on me," Sabathia said. "Me and [Jorge Posada] have been on the same page. We were clicking a lot early and just missing, trying to make that perfect pitch. It's a fine line, and today I definitely screwed it up."

But before 2010 is over, both Beckett and Sabathia will have picked up their teams on many a night.

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

{"content":["opening_day" ] }
{"content":["opening_day" ] }