Josh Beckett looks to be back.
It was another dominant outing by Beckett, last night against the Tigers. For six and two-third innings, Beckett held the Tigers hitless.
Beckett ran his record to 6-2 with a 4.09 ERA.
The month of April was a real struggle for Beckett. He was 2-2 with a sickening 7.22 ERA. And this was supposed to be the Sox ace.
Since then, Beckett has been near flawless. From May 1 on, he’s gone 4-0 with a 1.94 ERA.
The key has been his command. In April, Beckett walked 16 batters in 28.2 innings, allowing three gopher balls. Since May, he’s walked 12 in 41.2 innings pitched and three home runs.
Beckett has allowed one earned run in his last 22.2 innings. That’s a measly 0.39 ERA. That is coupled with striking out 22 batters in that same time frame.
With Beckett back in control, it’s now up to Jon Lester and Daisuke Matsuzaka to come around and finalize what it looked like on paper. The most dominate pitching staff in baseball
Lester’s last outing was gem. Two of his last three outings have been the Jon Lester Sox fans are used to, both against Toronto.
At home on May 21, he went six-and-a-third innings allowing only one earned run and able to escape the eight hits he allowed.
His last outing on Sunday, Lester went six dominating innings, allowing three hits, one earned run and striking out 12 batters.
If it wasn’t for allowing Justin Morneau’s laser beam blast in Minnesota, Lester would have been able to string together three solid outings.
It’s all in Lester’s head. He’s pitching like he did in 2006. Tons of pitches, getting behind hitters in the count and pitching himself out of jams. The tell-tale sign will be Lester’s next outing. If he can put it together after his Toronto outing, it’ll look like Lester is back.
Once again, it’s the frustrating Daisuke Matsuzaka show. His last two appearances seem to show that the Dice-man is back. Five innings pitched in both those games, walking three in each outing. He threw four wild pitches at Minnesota and picked up the loss.
Matsuzaka’s game in Detroit was pretty good. He allowed one earned and six hits. But, he’s still trying to find his command, if he’s had any in his career with Boston.
Let’s remember that he’s still coming around after being on the disabled list with arm fatigue—from pitching in the most useless tournament ever, The World Baseball Classic. He should be able to find his command in his next outing and go deeper into games.
While Beckett, Lester and Dice-K have been trying to find themselves, it’s been Tim Wakefield and Brad Penny carrying the load. That would be Boston’s No. 4 and 5 pitchers in the rotation. And somehow the Sox have stayed afloat and are in first place.
Penny has been solid. Since his rough start in April, he’s 3-1 with a 4.17 ERA. The bullpen has blown two of his games where he got the no decisions in May and his outing in Tampa, his only loss, was a defensive miscue by Julio Lugo that cost him.
Wakefield was the glue for the pitching staff in April. Twice, he saved the Sox season. His no-hit bid in Oakland helped the Sox start an 11-game winning streak. His other outing that helped the Sox was in Cleveland where he allowed only one hit over seven innings.
Wakefield has struggled recently but he was able to keep the Sox in the A.L. East. He 2-1 with a 1.86 ERA in April.
The Sox have to be thinking positively with Beckett back and Lester hopefully right behind him. When you couple that with the return of John Smoltz and Clay Buchholz owning AAA batters, Theo Epstein has a ‘good’ problem. Too much pitching.
The Sox also own one of the most prolific bullpen in baseball. Ramon Ramirez has been outstanding as the Sox set-up man. Manny Delcarmen has been lights out. Hideki Okajima has also continued his brilliance.
Boston has only two question marks. Will Dice-K pull it together and what in the world is going on with Papelbon. It’s almost like these two guys are bored. They put men on base all the time and then wiggle themselves out of trouble.
Case in point, Papelbon’s ninth inning on Tuesday night. He allowed three straight hits which loaded the bases and Boston owned a 5-1 lead. Three times Detroit came up with the tying man at the plate and three times Papelbon struck them out.
Paps is 13 for 14 in save opportunities but it’s been an adventure. His WHIP this season is 1.43. Papelbon’s WHIP the past tow seasons has been 0.88. Something is up. Maybe batter’s have him figured out a bit. It could be his pitch selection or his location. At some point, if he does not pull this together, the Sox may have a problem.
But for now, Boston fans have to be excited. The pitching is coming as advertised. And at a good time with the Yankees red-hot.