Josh Beckett Seeks Redemption in Final Regular-Season Start

On Friday night, Daisuke Matsuzaka posted another strong outing since coming off the disabled list Sept. 15. His effort helps to bolster the confidence in the starting rotation, which has been beset with various injuries and ailments. He improved his record (4-6, 5.76 ERA) as the Red Sox beat the Indians 6-2.

Now Boston looks to make it three straight over Cleveland as Josh Beckett takes the hill for his final regular-season start after being scratched on Monday night due to back spasms. If he fares as well as Jon Lester and Dice-K have over the first two games of this series, the Red Sox should be in pretty good shape.

When and Where

7:10 p.m. ET (NESN), Oct. 3, 2009
Fenway Park, Boston, Mass.

Records

Red Sox  (93-67, 2nd  place in AL East)
Indians (65-95, 4th place in AL Central)

Skinny

With their second consecutive win after snapping a six-game losing streak, the Sox are now 5-2 against the Indians this season. Friday’s win guarantees the Sox a third straight season series win over Cleveland. The Sox last accomplished that feat from 1997-99. 

Starting Lineups

Indians
Red Sox
Michael Brantley, CF Dustin Pedroia, 2B
Asrubal Cabrera, SS Jason Bay, LF
Chin-Soo Choo, RF Victor Martinez, C
Travis Hafner, DH Kevin Youkilis, 1B
Jhonny Peralta, 3B David Ortiz, DH
Matt LaPorta, LF Jed Lowrie, SS
Luis Valbuena, 2B Casey Kotchman, 1B
Lou Marson, C Chris Anderson, RF
Andy Marte, 1B Joey Gathright, CF

Starting Pitchers

RHP Josh Beckett (16-6, 3.78 ERA) vs. LHP Aaron Laffey (7-8, 3.91 ERA)

Beckett missed his last scheduled start on Monday against the Blue Jays because of back spasms. He has not pitched since Sept. 23 in Kansas City, when he gave up two runs on 12 hits with a walk and seven strikeouts, earning his 16th win.

Beckett has made five career starts against the Indians, going 1-4 with a 6.46 ERA (22 earned runs in 30 2/3 innings). He last faced Cleveland on Sept. 22, 2008, taking the loss after giving up four runs in  six innings. In three starts since the beginning of the 2007 season, he is 1-2 with a 3.00 ERA (seven runs, 21 innings) against the Indians.

Laffey is making his 19th start and 25th appearance of the season. In his last start on Monday against the White Sox, he took the loss after going 7 1/3 innings and allowing three runs on eight hits with three walks and five strikeouts. He has lost five straight starts. 

In his only career regular-season appearance against the Sox — at Fenway on May 6 — he earned his first career save, pitching three innings and giving up no hits and two runs.

Stat Sheet

Red Sox
Daisuke Matsuzaka has retired 23 straight batters in bases-loaded situations since giving up a grand slam to Baltimore’s Scott Moore on Sept. 8, 2007.

Billy Wagner has pitched in back-to-back games for the first time since July 23-24, 2008, while with the Mets.

Victor Martinez has hit safely in his last 28 starts since Aug. 28, hitting .352 (37-for-105) with two home runs and 16 RBIs.

David Ortiz has at least one RBI in six of his last nine games with 13 total in that span. His 76 RBIs since June 6 trail only Bobby Abreu (77) in the AL.  

Jason Bay is tied for second in the AL with 94 walks, six short of reaching 100 walks for the second time in his career.

With 48 doubles this season, Dustin Pedroia is two shy of his second straight 50-double season.

The Sox have 23 players with at least one home run this season, tying the club record set in 1996. They could break that record if Chris Woodward, Joey Gathright, or Dusty Brown homers.

Indians
The Indians stretched their road losing streak to 13 games on Friday, setting a new franchise record.

With two runs in the fifth inning on Friday, the Indians snapped a 20-inning scoreless streak. They hadn’t scored a run since the sixth inning of their 5-1 win over the White Sox in the first game of a doubleheader on Sept. 30.

Rookie Luis Valbuena matched a career high for the fourth time with three hits Friday, including a triple, a run scored and an RBI. He has hit safely in nine of his last 10 games.

Shin-Soo Choo needs one home run to become just the fourth AL player this season to reach the 20-homer and 20-stolen bases marks.

Left-hander David Huff (11-8) will be the first Indians rookie to lead the team in wins since CC Sabathia led with 17 wins in 2001.

Tony Sipp has given up just three earned in 25 games since Aug. 1.

Black and Blue

Red Sox
Josh Beckett missed his start Monday because of back spasms. He is expected to make his scheduled start Saturday against the Indians.

Tim Wakefield has been hampered by an ailing back and leg.

Right-hander Junichi Tazawa was placed on the 60-day DL on Sept. 28 with a mild left groin strain.

Indians
Right-hander Jake Westbrook is on the 60-day DL after undergoing ulnar collateral ligament surgery.

Right-hander Anthony Reyes is on the 60-day DL with right elbow inflammation.

Right-hander Joe Smith is on the 15-day DL with a left knee sprain.

Outfielder Grady Sizemore is on the 15-day DL with left elbow and groin injuries.

This Date In Red Sox History

In 1995, former Red Sox catcher Tony Pena's 13th inning home run won Game 1 of the American League Division Series for Cleveland.

Overheard

“Heading into the playoffs, I have had four starts, and not just in my start [Friday] but throughout those starts, I was able to work on points that I felt that are going to be important going into the playoffs. I had a really good feel for those points. I’m not sure yet what my role will be during the playoffs but I’m looking forward to it.”
– Daisuke Matsuzaka, on finishing the regular season strong

Press Box

Red Sox
Confidence and redemption carry Dice-K into the playoffs.

Terry Francona is starting to shape his postseason roster.

John Farrell is focusing on the Sox, not the Indians.

Indians
The Indians reached unlucky 13.

Rookie Trevor Crowe got "cold feet."

Victor Martinez wanted to stay in Cleveland.

MLB
The Rays denied CC Sabathia his 20th win.

Jake Peavy
kept the Tigers one game away from the AL Central title.

The Twins moved a game closer to stealing the Central.

Outlook

The Red Sox would like to see Beckett post a strong outing on Saturday, putting to rest any concerns about the back spasms that knocked him out of his last start. Expect to see backup players rotated into the lineup with some regulars getting pre-playoff rest. Jed Lowrie is among those expected to play.

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