With how good Josh Beckett has been against the Yankees this year, the law of averages would suggest that sooner or later he would have a clunker of an inning. Tonight, that bill finally came due, as a shaky sixth inning saw Beckett give up four runs—three of them earned—to the Yankees. That was as many as he had give up in thirty-two innings against the Yankees so far this year.
However, to give you an idea of what needed to happen for Beckett to have that bad inning, two of the runs were the result of hitting Mark Teixeira with a pitch and an error by RF Josh Reddick. A wild pitch also featured into the proceedings, so you can get a sense of just how weird and uncharacteristic this inning was for Beckett. Nothing for the Yankees to hang their hat on; there's certainly no sense that they've "solved" him, and they certainly would not relish the idea of two more starts against him this year. (Note to Yankees: you could avoid the pain by going 0-fer the remainder of the season. How about it?)
If you remove the shaky and unlucky sixth from the equation, Beckett had another strong outing. Even though it technically wasn't a quality start, there's little for Beckett to be disappointed about—eight strikeouts in 7 innings, with only one other run coming in the third off a double to Eduardo Nunez and a single to Derek Jeter (who moved up to 20th on the all time hits list, blah blah blah, go read Pinstripe Alley if you're so excited about that kind of thing).
Fortunately for Beckett, the Sox's bats had his back once again tonight. Like Lackey's start. the Sox had a dozen hits on the evening. This time, though, the Sox bats took advantage of mistakes by Yankees pitchers, and piled up the runs. Better still, both time the Yankees got on board, the Sox took back the lead in the ensuing bottom of the inning. In the third, Dustin Pedroia scored Marco Scutaro on a groundout, and then Jed Lowrie drove in Jacoby Ellsbury to put the Sox in the lead 2-1 after Joe Girardi elected to walk David Ortiz intentionally. Ortiz would add two more runs In the fifth, taking Phil Hughes way deep on a full-count pitch after a walk to Adrian Gonzalez.
Following the Yankee's four-run sixth, they had a 5-4 lead. However, that didn't last long, as Reddick walked, and then was driven in by a Jason Varitek double to tie the game. Varitek would be brought round two batters later, as Boone Logan came in for Phil Hughes, and promptly served up a 3-1 fastball to Ellsbury. Ellsbury did what Ellsbury does this season, but for extra added style points against the Yankees, he hit his first-ever "Blog Title" bomb. (It was also Ellsbury's first-ever MLB HR to left field.)
The remainder of the runs would come in the eighth inning: a ground-rule double to Reddick followed by another homer, this one courtesy of Jason Varitek, who took an over-the-middle pitch from Luis Ayala and deposited it into the Sox bullpen, giving the Sox a healthy four-run cushion. For those of you keeping track at home, that's 23 HR's and 75 RBI's from the catcher spot this year, with an aggregate OPS somewhere in the 0.760's. Not bad at all for a position where we just hope not to have a black hole.
The eighth and ninth were entrusted to Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon, who were their usual dominating, soul-crushing selves, although Bard was assisted by impressive defensive plays by Scutaro and the Elf. Papelbon was especially dominating, retiring his three batters on just seven pitches—including two strikeouts! So, when all was said and done, Josh Beckett now is 4-0 against the Yankees; he's the first Sox pitcher to have done that since Al Nipper in 1987 (courtesy ESPN). (Also, the game clocked in at a Sox-Yankees svelte 3:16.)
The victory also means that the Sox are guaranteed to remain in first place regardless of tonight's results. However, the Sox will look to take the series win tonight as A. J. Burnett takes on Jon Lester in what could be a do-or-die night for Burnett.