The Rotation is finally back. After spending the last three months on the disabled list, Josh Beckett returned to action with a strong outing against the Mariners.
All was not well early on, however, and it looked like Beckett might end up rusty like Clay after he gave up an early run in the first. Ichiro Suzuki led off the game with one of his patented infield hits to short, stole second, and then was scored on a Jose Lopez double that landed just fair past third. Add in a walk to Justin Smoak, and Beckett had already thrown 26 pitches by the time he left the mound.
Luckily, the rest of the game wouldn't be so hard for Beckett, who would only allow five more baserunners (including, of course, another Ichiro infield single) before leaving the game with two outs in the sixth. It was a strong performance from Beckett, who had good command of his pitches except for a very few lapses, and managed to drop a tight curve in for strikes despite getting squeezed on the outside corners. He finished the game with five strikeouts.
Still, through much of the game, it looked as if this was going to be another case of squandered opportunities costing the Red Sox the game. After Kevin Youkilis scored off an Adrian Beltre double to tie the game in the fourth, Mike Cameron doubled and reached third on a heads-up play when the throw into the infield dribbled into no man's land. With no outs in the fifth, it looked almost impossible not to score, but Hall and Cash both popped out before Marco Scutaro grounded out sharply to third. And then in the sixth, with the bases loaded and one out, a snap throw to third from catcher Rob Johnson caught David Ortiz sleeping. J.D. Drew walked to reload the bases before Cameron ended the threat with a strikeout.
It only took one pitch in the seventh, though, for Bill Hall to make up for his earlier failure. Jason Vargas' curveball caught a bit too much of the plate and didn't fool Hall, who turned on it and hit it high off the foul pole for the game winning run.
Scott Atchison continued to prove his worth with four outs, allowing only a walk to get the Sox to the eighth, where Daniel Bard meticulously picked apart the middle of the Seattle lineup (including two lefties) with a dominant nine pitch inning. Terry Francona elected to pull Bard and go to Jonathan Papelbon in the ninth, resulting in some drama when Papelbon allowed a double with two outs to the number nine hitter Jack Wilson, but a strikeout of Josh Wilson closed out the game and brought the Red Sox back up to .500 on their crucial West Coast road trip.
The Red Sox will turn to their ace Jon Lester tomorrow to try and clinch a series win against former Red Sox David Pauley (yeah, that guy). They'll need a nice long outing or a ton of runs with the bullpen tired after these last two games.