When asked if Josh Beckett would survive the first inning unscathed — a difficulty in recent starts — the Red Sox skipper nodded his head. He cited Beckett's confidence as his grounds for the statement.
Turns out, Valentine was wrong with his assertion. During Friday's 6-1 loss to the Blue Jays, Beckett placed the Red Sox in another first-inning bind, surrendering two of his four earned runs in the opening frame.
"I thought he had good stuff all night," Valentine said. "You know, leadoff strikeout I thought was good. [Colby] Rasmus' hit a low curveball over Cody [Ross'] head and then he got a groundball to third and we didn’t get an out on it. He made a couple bad pitches in the first couple innings and there were four runs."
It's a recurring theme for Beckett, who has encountered slow starts in games only to toss doughnuts afterward. With his outing against Toronto, Beckett's ERA in the first inning rose to 10.69, with 19 runs over 16 innings.
That's a complete turnaround from the 3.38 ERA that Beckett owns in subsequent innings. The first frame, however, is his weakness as opposing hitters are batting .343 (23-for-67) in the frame against Beckett.
On this night, Rasmus' triple — off Beckett's curveball — proved problematic.
"The first inning, I didn't think the pitches they were hitting," Beckett said. "I think I've got to bounce the curveball to Rasmus a little shorter. Really, besides that, I thought the first inning I made decent pitches. The second inning was the inning where things got away from me."
The early trouble most certainly spilled into the second inning. An inning after yielding two runs, Beckett allowed two more and wound up giving up a total of five runs — four earned — while walking three batters over six innings.
The first-inning hiccup resulted in Beckett's eighth loss of the season, the most since 2008 when he finished with a 12-10 record. As of now, the 32-year-old's record sits at 5-8 for the year.
"Obviously the results aren't where you want them to be, but you got to keep going out there," Beckett said. "I can't say I'm looking at a whole lot of positives from that outing. I got burned when I didn't make pitches."
All in all, Beckett tossed 96 pitches, with 62 going for strikes. But the outcome of the first few pitches ultimately undermined the rest.