Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies first baseman John Mayberry (15) tags out Boston Red Sox pitcher Josh Beckett (19) during the seventh inning at Citizens Bank Park. The Red Sox defeated the Phillies 5-1. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE
Josh Beckett did something on Sunday afternoon that could easily be miscast as lazy if viewed without any context in mind. In reality, though, it showed some presence of mind and awareness of the game situation. For not showing any effort on the bases, Beckett likely helped his team out more than if he had run hard.
With the Red Sox up 5-0 in the seventh, Beckett hit a ball deep to center. It ended up just missing becoming a homer, and instead turned into a long single for the Red Sox pitcher, who, due to the unfortunate side effects of interleague, was forced to hit rather than sit in between innings.
It might not be the best way to play baseball, but for a pitching staff that currently lacks a backup starter thanks to injuries, seeing Beckett jog his way to first base on a ball that could have easily been a double was certainly acceptable. Losing a pitcher to a hamstring or groin pull turning the bag hard is about the last thing the rotation needs. And no, pitchers don't automatically hurt themselves on the bases, but with the way injuries have run rampant in Boston the last few years, why put yourself in the situation?
The real gem, though, was when the Phillies attempted to get Beckett caught in a rundown on the next ball in play. Rather than go 5-6-3 on the double play, the Phillies' second baseman Freddy Galvis threw to first to get Mike Aviles, then hoped to chase Beckett on the basepaths, forcing a rundown. Instead, Beckett never broke his leisurely stride, and first baseman John Mayberry eventually had to hasten his pursuit of him in order to keep him from casually strolling into second base. Beckett explains:
"Station to station, and sometimes you don't make it to your station," Beckett said. "What was I going to do, run back and forth six times? That'd have been perfect for me. ... They definitely wanted that. I wasn't going to give them what they wanted."
Beckett had thrown just 70 pitches through six innings, and was on pace to complete the full nine frames if everything went well the rest of the way. The Phillies would prefer that Beckett run himself ragged to bring himself that much closer to fatigue in the part of his job that isn't anywhere near as important as his primary role. Beckett, to his credit, just let an out become an out as it was very likely to be anyway.
In his next inning, 12 of 17 pitches went for strikes, and his fastball stayed at its earlier pace through most of the inning. He got most of the way through the eighth as well, before being lifted for Vicente Padilla. Would he had the exact same outcome if he had run the bases? It's possible -- just because he doesn't run the bases most of the time doesn't mean Beckett's incapable. But for a situation in which he was going to be out anyway, Beckett had the right idea in just letting the Phillies do the work in this pseudo-rundown.