Sometimes there's just no accounting for ground balls. That was pretty much the story for Josh Beckett today against the Pirates, who took advantage of some bad defense and good placement to score five off the beleaguered Red Sox pitcher in a long fourth inning.
It all started with an error. Nate Spears, playing first, had a ground ball come up on him in front of first and fly past his glove, allowing leadoff man Neil Walker to reach second.
From there came the things Beckett could have done better with. A full-count walk to Andrew McCutchen on a curveball that moved well, but ended up in the dirt put runners on first and second before a fat 2-1 pitch was smoked by Lyle Overbay for a 2-run double. A flat fastball to Matt Diaz capped off the bad stuff, putting runners at first and second with one out.
Then Josh Beckett got a weak fly ball out from Ronny Cedeno, which should have been the end of the inning were it not for the error earlier. Then came the ground balls.
The first, from Dusty Brown, Beckett can be faulted for. He did, after all, kick the thing high into the air when it came back at him, letting everyone reach safely. This loaded the base for the pitcher, Kevin Correia, who took a decently placed fastball past a diving Kevin Youkilis and into left field, scoring at first two, and then a third when Jarrod Saltalamacchia couldn't connect with Youk on an attempt to catch the runner at third.
"Sweet cheese on a stick!" proclaimed the Pirates announcer. Yes, indeed.
It's hard to blame Beckett entirely for that chain of events. And, sure enough, four of those five runs were unearned. Maybe he's deserving of two of them, but it's just more hard luck for a guy who really doesn't need it right now.
For their part, the Red Sox did what they've been doing a lot of lately--fighting back in the next half-inning. Darnell McDonald led off with a walk before a string of singles from Daniel Nava, Nate Spears, and Marco Scutaro had two runs across (one scoring on Josh Reddick's sacrifice fly) and runners on first and second. The Pirates missed a chance at a crucial second out when Dustin Pedroia reached on an error, allowing Jarrod Saltalamacchia score a third on a sacrifice fly of his own.
By the bottom of the seventh inning, the Sox had pulled within one run, but then Alfredo Aceves hit a bump in the road. After allowing a leadoff single to Jason Jaramillo, he left a pitch in John Bowker's wheelhouse--it didn't come back. To be fair, that was where Daniel Butler called for it, but a homer is a homer. The Pirates took a 7-4 lead they would not give up.
Dustin Pedroia: Two more base knocks, and the laser show is now well-and-truly underway. Pedroia is hitting .333 for spring training after a very slow start, and is right around .500 over the past week.
Marco Scutaro: Another pair of hits came from Marco Scutaro, who's not been quite as consistent. Still, he's looking about how he looked last year, which isn't an entirely negative thing.
Drew Sutton: If there were a middle infield spot open on this team, Drew Sutton would have earned it and then some by now. A 2-2 day with two doubles has his OPS up over the 1.000 mark now.
Kevin Youkilis: There's one guy every year who tests your willingness to believe that ST is largely meaningless. This year it's Kevin Youkilis. Another oh-fer leaves Youkilis' average under .200, and his OPS under .500. I just have to keep telling myself it won't mean a thing come April. I hope.
Josh Beckett?: Again, I find it hard to really fault Beckett for this outing. But he does seem to be having trouble finding traction this spring, one way or another.
Alfredo Aceves: It was nothing like Tim Wakefield's explosion yesterday, but Aceves didn't really take advantage of an opportunity to establish himself as the frontrunner in this particular competition.
The Errors: We've had too many of them lately, and I'd be quite alright if they would just up and go away.