BOSTON, MA: Kelly Shoppach #10 of the Boston Red Sox consoles Josh Beckett #19 in the third inning after Beckett had given up four runs against the Cleveland Indians at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
In the first inning, Josh Beckett looked like you would expect him to. He was throwing strikes, and his velocity was intact, helping him to an efficient 11-pitch, nine-strike frame. Things went downhill fast, though, and Beckett was lifted from the game after 56 pitches, two homers, 2-1/3 innings, and seven runs allowed.
In a word, Beckett looked rusty. Manager Bobby Valentine said he looked like a pitcher who had "maybe just a little too much time off." Beckett said he had a small mechanical issue that made his pitches flat last night -- flat pitches end up in the bleachers. Physically, he was fine, a fact backed up by his previous start with the sore lat muscle, and Boston's admission that it was their decision to sit Beckett in the now-controversial Saturday game against the Orioles.
Those flat offerings didn't miss many bats, unless they missed the strike zone, too. Beckett threw 11 change-ups, just five of which were strikes, and only two of those avoided being put in play. He threw just six curves, and half of those were strikes. His cutter was a very-average six for 10 on strikes. His four-seamer was working for him, at least in terms of finding the strike zone. Of the 17 that went for strikes, 13 of those were not put in play, and the velocity on the pitch was what you would expect from Beckett (who has quietly returned to the 92-93 range after early concerns about his velocity).
(Chart courtesy of Texas Leaguers.) He left a few pitches up, but his problems had more to do with missing on the outer parts of the plate with everything save his four-seamer. He was hitting all of his spots in the first inning, save the change-up left over the plate on Asdrubal Cabrera's ground-rule double, and it's hard to believe, watching him against those four hitters, that he would go on to give up seven runs in a short outing.
In the second, though, you could see things starting to unravel. He blew a few pitches by Carlos Santana, but they were left up in the zone. He overthrew a few fastballs to Shin-Soo Choo and had trouble locating his curve before walking him on a full count. When it was his secondary stuff left up and in the zone, the result was rampant Indians scoring.
Since Beckett is healthy enough to pitch, and had identified his mechanical problem by the time the game was over, chances are good he'll be back to pitching productively in his next appearance. Before Thursday's implosion, Beckett had been Boston's most-productive pitcher over a four-start stretch, the only one no one seemed worried about giving up four, five, six, runs in a shortened outing. They'll need that guy back to snap out of this early-season funk.