Victor Martinez caught Josh Beckett on Wednesday night as the Red Sox got their first win of the series in Kansas City. It was only the second time this season that Martinez was behind the plate to catch Boston's ace.
It was a significant development.
Back on Aug. 18, Martinez found himself catching Beckett in Toronto. It was a last-minute decision, a change in the battery after Jason Varitek was a late scratch. It wasn't exactly a happy marriage from the get-go, as Beckett gave up seven runs and nine hits in 5 1/3 innings of work. Three of the nine hits left the ballpark, the most home runs given up in a start by Beckett up to that point in the season.
In the days that followed, the Boston sports radio airwaves crackled with complaints from Red Sox fans blaming Beckett's poor start on the fact that Varitek wasn't catching the ace. The hue and cry centered on the belief that there had to be a disconnect between Beckett and Martinez.
Now, as we approach the postseason, it is clear the Red Sox believe they have to make Beckett comfortable with Martinez behind the plate. The former Cleveland Indians catcher/first baseman has been the team's most consistent hitter, posting a .330 batting average, six homers, and 34 RBIs since coming over to the Sox.
His fifth-inning base hit Wednesday extended his hitting streak to 22 games, tying Jacoby Ellsbury for the longest Boston streak this season.
Why is it important for Beckett and Martinez to have a good working relationship? It's important because Beckett is going to be the No. 1 starter for Boston in October. That means he will make two starts in the first round, and will make at least two starts in every postseason series moving forward.
Obviously, Terry Francona wants to fill out his postseason lineup card with the best lineup possible. To do that, he needs Martinez behind the plate with Kevin Youkilis at first, Mike Lowell at third and David Ortiz as DH. Putting Varitek in the starting nine knocks one of those players out of the lineup, and the playoffs are no time to go to battle with anything less than your strongest hitters.
Look at the following numbers, and tell me who should be in the lineup:
Player A: .290 BA, 17 HR, 74 RBIs
Player B: .234 BA, 25 HR, 88 RBIs
Player C: .210 BA, 14 HR, 51 RBIs
Obviously, Player A (Lowell) and Player B (Ortiz) get the call over Player C (Varitek). If Varitek has to catch Beckett, you'd be forced to pull one of the other players out of the lineup in two games of the five-game series. And, if Varitek catches Daisuke Matsuzaka (Martinez has not caught him yet), you're talking about an impact hitter on the bench for 60 percent of the series.
Other than a two-run hiccup in the fourth inning Wednesday, Beckett looked good against the Royals. There did not seem to be too many moments when he and Martinez were not on the same page. It was a good step forward for the tandem, and they should get two more starts together before the playoffs.
The next real step is the postseason. Wednesday night, it looked like Beckett and Martinez are ready to take that step together.