Wednesday, August 6, 2008
Beckett & Bay in Good Form
By the time the ball rolled along the outfield wall, from center fielder Mitch Maier to left fielder Ross Gload, Jason Bay had gone from a chance at a fly out to a chance at a home run to a sure double. As he turned into second base, watching the play all the way, Bay didn't have time to register the might-have-beens, only the what-weres. He had a double, on his way to a career-high-tying four-hit game and a shaving-cream pie in the face, and his team was on its way to one of those rare road wins.
Not that Bay carried the entire load, the Red Sox bolstered too by the reappearances of a 2007 vintage Josh Beckett and a 2008 early-season vintage Jacoby Ellsbury. With a crushing offense (13 hits) and a crushing performance by Beckett (6 2/3 innings, 2 runs, 4 hits, 7 Ks), the Sox captured an 8-2 win over the Royals in front of 22,069 at Kauffman Stadium.
"It keeps us where we want to be," Beckett said. "We've got to keep winning games. We don't have that big cushion where we can go out, oh, well, we lost this game. We've got to keep pace. That's something new for a lot of these guys in here, myself included."
They did that last night, on a night that the Rays kept rolling and the Yankees got nothing but bad news between their loss to Texas and Joba Chamberlain's visit to Dr. James Andrews. For the Sox, it was good news, for Beckett and for the offense.
After a start last week that the Sox hope was his nadir - 8 runs (7 earned) on 11 hits in getting his third straight loss - Beckett recorded his first win in nearly a month, the last coming over Minnesota July 9. After the first inning, in which the Royals had two hits and scored a run, Beckett allowed only two base runners over the next five innings. He slipped a bit in the seventh, giving up a double to Alex Gordon and walking Gload on four pitches.
He was removed after 90 pitches, with manager Terry Francona saying, "He looked like he was starting to feel it. He was up four straight pitches. That, to me, is when guys will feel it their next outing, more than just the pitch count."
Mike Timlin came in, allowed Gordon to score, but that was it for Kansas City.
"He looked great," Jose Guillen said of Beckett. "His ball moved all over the place. Inside and out. He looked like the playoff Beckett."
A high compliment, and not always a given for Beckett (10-8, 4.08 ERA) this season. But locating his fastball, as he did last night, certainly helps.
So too does a burst from Ellsbury, whose 39-game slide (.217) and lack of stolen bases have dropped him to No. 9 in the order. But two hits, including an infield single off the pitcher, were a precursor to two steals, his first since July 1.
"Like with hitters, you get a ball to fall and you feel better about yourself," Francona said. "The one thing he hasn't done is get frustrated and run into more outs. He's been an intelligent base runner. He got into situations tonight where he could steal it and he did."
And that helped with the buoyant feeling on the field and in the clubhouse, a feeling that has helped Bay settle in nicely with his new team.
"You kind of look around and no one's counting on you to be that guy," Bay said. "You're just a complementary piece to that puzzle. I think there was a little bit of relaxation that goes with that. I mean, since I've been here, I've got two guys on base every second or third time I get up there."
Though Bay managed to evade the pie on NESN cameras, as delivered by the less mobile David Ortiz, he has certainly made fans among his new teammates. Ortiz, searching for a bat to replace that of Manny Ramírez, had a big grin after the game when discussing Bay.
"He's a good hitter, bro," Ortiz said. "We needed that."
And the Sox needed the offense. Though they started slowly, with single runs - and missed chances - in the first, fourth, and fifth, the offense came together in the sixth and seventh. Starting with a Bay single in the sixth, the Sox got a run on Ellsbury's second hit of the game, another on a Gordon error, and narrowly missed a third when Ellsbury was tagged out at the plate.
Then came the seventh, and that bizarre play on Bay's hit, one that mirrored in some ways an equally weird play in Yankee Stadium in July. That time, the ball sat on top of the fence in left for a few beats before falling onto the field. This one? Just as surprising.
"Now's probably the time to get a lottery ticket," Francona said.
So was Bay disappointed that he missed out on a home run on his big night?
"Depends on the way you look at it, because the center fielder almost caught it," Bay said. "We'll take what we can get. That was one of the more interesting plays you'll ever see. I'm not going to look a gift horse in the mouth."