The Red Sox took the field on Saturday night at Fenway Park in search of two things: their 94th win of the season and a solid start for Josh Beckett in his final tune-up before the start of postseason play. They got one of the two.
Beckett was shaky, getting touched up for four runs in his first two innings on the mound, but the Sox had absolutely no trouble winning this one anyway. Indians starter Aaron Laffey lasted just two innings, as the Sox rallied for seven runs in the second, capped off by a grand slam from Victor Martinez into the right-field bullpen. They took an 8-4 lead and never looked back, waltzing to an 11-6 win.
Beckett finished with four runs on seven hits in five innings, striking out five Indians and walking three. Not a stellar final start of the regular season for Beckett, but the Sox saw a solid middle-relief effort from Paul Byrd, who went three innings, and a perfect ninth inning for Dustin Richardson.
One hundred sixty-one games down, one to go. The Red Sox will take the field for Sunday afternoon's finale in search of a sweep of the Indians, which would give them 95 wins for the 2009 regular season.
Final: Red Sox 11, Indians 6.
The Red Sox turn to Dustin Richardson,
their 25-year-old rookie southpaw out of Texas Tech, to finish the
ballgame. Richardson gives the Sox a 1-2-3 inning, the third scoreless
inning of his career in the major leagues, and the Sox cruise to
victory. It's their third win in a row, and 94th of the season. Cue up
End 8th, 11-6 Sox: Congratulations to Dusty Brown, who adds to
the Sox' lead by hitting the first home run of his career here in the
eighth inning. Gotta love the old "rookie freeze-out" in the Sox'
dugout after the homer — Brown's teammates look emotionless and
unmoved as the rookie catcher enters the dugout, but the players pile
onto him with congratulations after a few seconds. Nice moment for the
27-year-old Sox backstop.
Middle 8th, 10-6 Sox: Solid eighth inning for Byrd — the
Indians make a little bit of noise when Luis Valbuena starts things off
with a single to right, but the Sox' defense quickly undoes the
Cleveland threat with a 6-4-3 double play, and Andy Marte then pops out
to end the inning. The Sox' four-run lead remains intact, and they're
three outs away from their third straight win.
End 7th, 10-6 Sox: After a string of six straight Red Sox
retired, Brian Anderson breaks it up by singling to right field with
two outs in the seventh — it's Anderson's fourth time on base tonight.
Gosling comes back and ends the inning with no further damage, though,
getting Joey Gathright to ground out to Jhonny Peralta at third base. Count it — three straight scoreless innings for Mike Gosling.
Middle 7th, 10-6 Sox: The Indians get a couple of runs back here in
the sixth, as Asdrubal Cabrera starts things off with a single to
center field and Paul Byrd makes a mistake against Shin-Soo Choo,
leaving one out over the plate and watching him launch it into the
Monster seats. It's the 20th home run of the season for Choo, who
reaches that milestone for the first time in his career.
End 6th, 10-4 Sox: Another solid inning for Mike Gosling. The
Tribe lefty gets a 1-2-3 inning against the heart of the order —
flyout, strikeout, groundout for the Sox' 3-4-5 hitters. (Of course,
one of those outs is Dusty Brown, batting in Victor Martinez's spot in
the lineup. Still the heart of the order nonetheless.)
Middle 6th, 10-4 Sox: The Sox make a few changes to start the sixth inning — they go with Dusty Brown to take over for Martinez behind the plate, Josh Reddick in left field for Bay, and Paul Byrd takes
the mound, trying his hand at a middle relief role. Byrd makes it a
1-2-3 sixth without breaking a sweat — he and Beckett have combined to
retire 11 of the last 12. The Sox lead remains comfortable, heading to
the bottom of the sixth.
End 5th, 10-4 Sox: The Red Sox get the lead runner on once again
in the fifth, but nothing comes of it. After Anderson starts things
with a walk, Joey Gathright grounds into a double play, short to second
to first. Mike Gosling then issues another walk, this time to Pedroia, but he gets out of it when Jason Bay lofts a lazy flyout to center field.
Middle 5th, 10-4 Sox: Beckett has settled down nicely since
those rocky first two innings, retiring eight of the last nine Indians
he's faced. It's a 1-2-3 top of the fifth for the Sox' righty, who
makes quick work of the 5-6-7 portion of the order. Strikeout,
groundout, groundout — on to the bottom of the fifth.
End 4th, 10-4 Sox: Kevin Youkilis walks to lead off the fourth,
but the Sox get nothing out of it. The Sox' 5-6-7 hitters go down in
order — including Jed Lowrie, who tries his hand at batting from the
left side of the plate against the Indians' reliever, Lewis. Lowrie's
not swinging very hard, and he's grimacing as he tries — it appears
that the Sox' shortstop is still working to recover from his left wrist
Middle 4th, 10-4 Sox: Make it back-to-back scoreless innings now
for Beckett, who's starting to figure things out. He walks Shin-Soo
Choo on five pitches with two outs in the fourth, but he keeps the
Indians off the board by coming back with a three-pitch strikeout of
Travis Hafner. The Sox remain comfortably out in front in this one.
End 3rd, 10-4 Sox: Eric Wedge puts in Jensen Lewis
to pitch the third inning after two miserable innings from Laffey, but
Lewis fares no better. Brian Anderson takes him deep with a man on,
driving one over the wall in left field to make it a 10-4 ballgame.
It's the fourth home run of the season for Anderson.
Middle 3rd, 8-4 Sox: For the first time tonight, we're putting a
goose egg on the scoreboard — Beckett allows a one-out single to right
by Luis Valbuena, but he then comes back and strikes out Marson and
Marte to end the inning. Through three innings, we've seen three
strikeouts and two walks for the Tribe against Beckett.
End 2nd, 8-4 Sox: So much for playing from behind. The Sox get a huge rally going against Laffey in the second — after David Ortiz leads off with a double, the Sox follow up with a walk, two singles, a balk, and then another single from Jason Bay to plate the tying run. Next comes Victor Martinez,
who blasts one into the bullpen in right for a grand slam, the first of
his career. All of a sudden, the Sox have broken this thing open. Let's
see if Beckett can hold the lead.
Middle 2nd, 4-1 Tribe: Beckett still hasn't gotten into a groove
against these Indians, who plate two more runs here in the second. Lou
Marson leads things off with a double to left, and a single to
right-center from Brantley scores him two batters later. Beckett
follows that up by allowing another walk and another single, leading to
another run. We're only two innings in, but Beckett is already looking
plenty rattled, and the Sox trail 4-1 early on.
End 1st, 2-1 Tribe: The Sox get one back in a hurry. After a long struggle with Aaron Laffey, Dustin Pedroia lofts one high and deep
to left field, clearing not only the Green Monster but the entirety of
the Monster seats. Pedroia's 14th home run of the season caroms out
onto Lansdowne Street, putting the Sox back in the game — but Laffey
has the last laugh, coming back to strike out the side against the Sox'
Middle 1st, 2-0 Tribe: Not a good start for Josh Beckett against
the Indians. The first two hitters in the Cleveland order make solid
contact against Beckett, with a single from Michael Brantley and a double to right by the shortstop Cabrera, which quickly leads to two runs in the first. A Shin-Soo Choo groundout plates the first Cleveland run, and when Travis Hafner singles to right, it's a quick 2-0. The Red Sox will be working from behind in this one.
7:04 p.m.: This just in: Mike Lowell has been scratched
from the Red Sox' lineup at the last minute. Lowell was expected to
start at third base for the Red Sox, but he's been taken off the lineup
card in favor of Casey Kotchman, who takes over at first base as Kevin Youkilis plays third. Kotchman will bat seventh in the Red Sox' order.
6:53 p.m.: Assuming we start playing baseball promptly at 7:10, here's what you can expect from the lineups that take the field: Asdrubal Cabrera is back in the Indians' infield, starting at shortstop and batting second. Lou Marson will start behind the plate and bat eighth, while former Sox prospect Andy Marte suits up for the Tribe, playing first base and batting ninth.
For the Sox, it's backups on parade. J.D. Drew, Jacoby Ellsbury and Alex Gonzalez will all take their Saturday night off, resting up for the postseason that lies ahead; Terry Francona has opted to start Brian Anderson in right field, Joey Gathright in center and Jed Lowrie at shortstop.
6:24 p.m.: This just in from the team:
weather forecast in the vicinity of Fenway Park calls for the
possibility of scattered rain showers throughout the evening hours.
The Fenway Park gates are open and the Red Sox expect to start tonight’s game against Cleveland as scheduled at 7:10 p.m.
However, the Red Sox want to alert our fans to the current forecast and to the possibility of delay.
This forecast is of course subject to change as the day progresses. Additional updates will be provided as necessary.
10:23 a.m.: On Thursday night, the Red Sox saw confirmation that Jon Lester was ready for the pressure of October baseball. On Friday, they learned the same about Daisuke Matsuzaka.
Now, it's time to check up on Josh Beckett.
In his first appearance on the mound since he was scratched from Monday's start with back spasms, Beckett takes on the Indians in his final regular-season start on Saturday night. After 207 1/3 innings, 31 starts and 16 wins, this is Beckett's final tune-up for the postseason.
He'll take on Aaron Laffey, the 24-year-old Indians southpaw finishing up his first full season on a down note. Laffey hasn't won a game since Aug. 16 — he finished August with a pair of no-decisions, and he went 0-5 in five September starts. Now, he'll hope October is friendlier to him. But against the slugging Red Sox at Fenway Park, he shouldn't count on it.