The Minnesota Twins scored one run on two hits off RHP Josh Beckett in the first inning of tonight's Grapefruit League opener at a chilly City of Palms Park in Ft. Myers, FL (it was 45 degrees when the final out was recorded). Afterwards, Beckett and seven relievers shut down the opposing offense on two hits over the final eight innings in the Sox 2-1 win.
Besides Beckett, only LHPs Hideki Okajima and Brian Shouse allowed singles in the ballgame. Red Sox pitchers combined to strike out four and issue three walks.
The Red Sox offense was largely shut down until the sixth inning when they scored the game-tying run. Two innings later they plated the game-winner off reliever Jose Lugo.
Beckett got off to a rough start as leadoff hitter Denard Span singled, advanced to second base on a groundout and scored on an rbi-single by DH Jason Kubel. He then settled down and induced an inning-ending double play off the bat of Michael Cuddyer.
That would be all the scoring in the game until the bottom of the sixth inning as most pitchers from both sides looked strong. After Beckett retired the Twins in order in the second, Jonathan Papelbon duplicated the feat, throwing 10 of his 13 pitches for strikes. Okajima allowed two base runners as he struggled through his inning of work, but Daniel Bard followed with a perfect inning and Ramon Ramirez added a hitless inning to send the game into the bottom of the sixth.
Twins starters Nick Blackburn and Kevin Slowey each allowed one hit in two scoreless innings of work. Relief pitcher Pat Neshek, returning to action after Tommy John surgery back in 2008, added a perfect frame.
The Red Sox tied the game off reliever Mike Maroth in the sixth inning. Leadoff hitter Dusty Brown doubled to left field. He was replaced by pinch runner Darnell McDonald. Center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury walked and 2B Dustin Pedroia cracked an rbi-single to left. The move to insert a pinch-runner proved to be prescient, as McDonald barely beat the throw home. The rally ended when pinch hitter Lars Anderson grounded into a double play and 1B Aaron Bates flew to right.
Brian Shouse, Scott Atchison and Joe Nelson each pitched a shutout inning. Atchison earned the win and Nelson the save courtesy of C Mark Wagner's rbi-single in the eighth inning.
The Red Sox lead the race for the Governor's Cup, 1-0.
After the game, Josh Beckett critiqued his effort: "I felt like I kept the ball down well. Five ground balls and two hits—one a line drive and the other one a ground ball—so (with respect to the) things that we've been working on the last two weeks, I'm getting there."