Josh Beckett is known as one of the baseball's best postseason pitchers in recent years. He did it with the Florida Marlins in 2003 and the same with the Red Sox in 2007. But 2008 was a completely different story.
Beckett struggled in his one start against the Angels in the ALDS. He lasted just five innings and allowed four earned runs. In game two of the ALCS against the Rays, struggled doesn't even define his outing: 4.1 innings, nine hits and eight earned runs. It was definitely his worst postseason outing ever.
With game six on the mend, most people were worried about Beckett starting the game. After game five heroics (that will be to come on OTM's top 10 list), no one wanted to ruin it with another bad start by Beckett. The Red Sox ace, though, decided to prove everyone wrong.
His stats won't make your eyes pop out of your head, but considering Beckett's oblique injury and his performance prior in the playoffs, he was awesome. Beckett went five innings and allowed just two runs on four hits. He struck out three and walked one.
Beckett had a painful oblique injury but wouldn't sit if the world depended on it. WEEI's Rob Bradford explained after the series how badly it affected Beckett:
When Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein describes Beckett's five-inning performance in Game 6 as "borderline heroic" it is with good reason.
Beyond the fact that he had to adjust his game to the point of throwing nearly 40 percent off-speed pitches because of the ailment, there was the immense obstacle that the pain presented.
Even with the assistance of pain-relieving medication following the ALCS win, Beckett still struggled to put his shirt on just before getting exiting the Tropicana Field visitors' clubhouse.
While the game itself will always be overshadowed by previous events, this one shouldn't be forgotten. With the game tied at 2-2 in the sixth, the most unlikely hero delivered. With two outs and James Shields on the mound, light-hitting Jason Varitek broke the tie with a big home run to right field. David Ortiz later singled in Coco Crisp to put the Sox up 4-2.
Here's what I had to say in the game recap:
Yes, ladies and gentlemen. There will be a game seven played between the Red Sox and Rays.
A lot of people said Beckett should not have started this game. A lot wanted to throw Jon Lester, the unquestionable ace of the 2008 Red Sox staff. I can't say I had an opinion, but for all the doubters: Beckett told you to STFU.
It's OK, that's what he told the Rays tonight, too. Only five innings, but he allowed just two runs (two home runs, actually), four hits, one walk and struck out three. It wasn't Beckett's best postseason performance, but it doesn't matter because he did what he had to do. Two runs in five innings? I'll take that nine times out of 10.
Like I said before, when we think back to the 2008 ALCS we're not going to think of this game first. But the Sox would have never seen a game seven if it wasn't for the gutsy performance by Beckett and the clutch-hitting by Varitek.