Angels 4-3, FINAL: If Jason Varitek isn't going to hit, the least he can do is catch the darn ball. No ninth-inning miracle this time, as Brian Fuentes picks up his 42nd save. The Red Sox lead in the Wild Card drops to six games with 17 to play.
Mid 9th, Angels 4-3: The one knock on Billy Wagner is his history of failure in big situations. Called upon to preserve a ninth-inning tie, Wagner allows a run on a walk, sacrifice and single, and the heart of the Red Sox order must try to bail him out.
End 8th, 3-3: Victor Martinez has had a lot of clutch hits for the Red Sox since his trade deadline acquisition. But he comes up just a few feet short tonight, sending Gary Matthews to the fence in right for the final out of the inning. That's it for Beckett, who allows three runs on seven hits with seven strikeouts in eight innings. Billy Wagner is in the game.
Mid 8th, 3-3: Beckett works a 1-2-3 inning, completing eight full for the first time since allowing eight runs to the Yankees Aug. 23 and just the second time since July 21.
End 7th, 3-3: The umpires aren't scared of the Red Sox tonight. Just ask Mike Lowell, who takes a called strike three in the seventh and has some kind words for home plate umpire Jeff Kellogg.
9:10 p.m.: Alexei Ramirez, Kendry Morales, Chone Figgins. All members of the Jason Varitek Can't Catch A Third Strike For The Final Out Of The Seventh Inning Club.
Mid 7th, 3-3: Jason Varitek's personal tribute to Mickey Owen plays for the second night in a row at Fenway Park. The reviews are not good. With two outs and runners at second and third, Beckett struck out Chone Figgins on a ball in the dirt. But once again, Varitek can't glove it, the ball going between his legs and to the backstop, allowing Kendrick to score the tying run.
End 6th, Red Sox 3-2: No sixth inning lightning tonight, but there was some thunder: Victor Martinez takes a Santana fastball off the … um … backside. Retaliation for Vladimir Guerrero getting drilled in the ribs last night? Maybe.
Mid 6th, Red Sox 3-2: Two more strikeouts for Beckett, who now stands two outs away from reaching 200 innings for the third time in his career. The last time was 2007, when Beckett challenged for the Cy Young Award.
End 5th, Red Sox 3-2: The past two nights, the Red Sox saved their big run-scoring inning for the sixth, so no surprise Santana works a 1-2-3 fifth. The Sox are just setting him up for the big fall.
Mid 5th, Red Sox 3-2: The bottom of the Angels order has been the nemesis of Beckett tonight. No. 8 hitter Kendrick homered in the third. Now, No. 9 hitter Jeff Mathis doubles with two outs and scores on Chone Figgins' double to cut the lead to one run.
End 4th, Red Sox 3-1: Jason Bay continues the assault on his personal bests, clubbing his 33rd homer — two shy of his 2006 total — and driving in two for 106 RBI — three shy of 2006. Jacoby Ellsbury led off the inning with his own homer, giving Beckett a lead to work with.
Mid 4th, Angels 1-0: Beckett's only mistake tonight was the pitch to Kendrick leading off the third. Other than that, two harmless singles. Beckett has allowed just five earned runs over his past 16 innings. He allowed 17 earned runs over 19 innings before that.
End 3rd, Angels 1-0: Erwin Santana has never had great success against the Red Sox, going 1-2 with a 5.40 ERA in five previous starts. But he's mowing them down tonight, allowing one hit over the first three innings.
Mid 3rd, Angels 1-0: Josh Beckett had managed to go two full starts without allowing a home run, but not three. Howie Kendrick leads off the third with a shot into the Red Sox bullpen. Beckett responds by retiring three of the next four batters, inclduing his second strikeout of Abreu.
End 2nd, 0-0: The Red Sox pattern of getting the lead man on in the early innings and doing nothing with it continues for a third straight game. Jason Bay singles, but becomes the throw-em-out half of a double play, with David Ortiz handling the strike-em-out portion.
Mid 2nd, 0-0: Six in a row retired by Beckett, who, it should be noted, struck out Bobby Abreu looking in the first inning in the rematch after April's controversy, with Beckett being suspended for throwing at Abreu's head after time was called with Beckett already in his windup.
End 1st, 0-0: Victor Martinez watched Wednesday's wild finish from Cleveland, where he was attending to a personal matter. He flew back this afternoon and is in the lineup tonight. But his night is off to a tough start, as he strikes out to end a 1-2-3 first inning by Ervin Santana.
Mid 1st. 0-0: Red Sox starters own a remarkable 1.57 ERA during the seven-game winning streak, the longest by the Red Sox in September since nine straight in 1986. Josh Beckett lowers that number further with a scoreless first, allowing just a leadoff single to Chone Figgins before retiring the next three in a row.
6:45 p.m.: All sorts of doings at the yard tonight. Victor Martinez is back in the lineup, but Kevin Youkilis isn't yet because of his back. The Red Sox are trying to determine the source of Nick Green's "dead leg," which gave out on him on the check-swing in the ninth inning Wednesday night. And speaking of that little drama, the Boston Herald is reporting that MLB is investigating claims by the umpring crew that Angels coaches verbally abused them on the way off he field after the 9-8 loss to the Red Sox. We've already heard from Brian Fuentes, who claimed the umpires are "scared" to make calls against the Sox at Fenway. Bob Watson is going to be a busy man handing out suspensions from this one.
2:40 p.m.: Not sure what the Red Sox can do for encore after Wednesday's epic ninth-inning rally. How about the continuing rally of Josh Beckett in September?
Lost in the all rain delays last Saturday night was the best performance by Beckett in weeks, and just in time with the postseason only three weeks away. And wouldn't Beckett love nothing more than to stick it to the Angels after the suspension drama in April with Bobby Abreu? Not to mention Beckett's poor performance in Game 3 of the Division Series last October. No love for the Angels there, either.
It will be interesting to see what kind of fallout there is tonight after the wild ninth inning, what with Mike Scoscia and Brian Fuentes' critical comments directed at the umpires, with Fuentes going so far as to call the umpires "scared" to make calls against the Red Sox at Fenway. The Angels are the ones that look scared, the ghosts of postseasons past flying all around their dugout. Against Beckett, this needs to be a statement game for the Angels, or you can pretty much pencil the Red Sox directly into the ALCS.