There's no need to conduct an MRI on Beckett's back or check his oft-blistered fingers for something on the skin or review the tape to see if he's getting squeezed.
No, Beckett has one issue and one issue alone: He is simply not locating his fastball.
Beckett said as much after giving up seven runs on a season-high 11 hits in a loss at New York on Sunday. In case we didn't believe him, he showed us five days later in the Texas heat just how hittable he has become in the span of a week.
The righty gave up six runs on 10 hits in just five innings of a marathon 10-9 loss to the Rangers on Friday night. Three of the hits were home runs, one a double and nearly all of them came on fastballs left over the heart of the plate.
"He caught the plate with too many pitches," manager Terry Francona said. "There's some pretty dangerous hitters especially in this ballpark. We just got to get him back to establishing the fastball command and things will go well from there.
"When he commands his fastball, everything will fall into place."
The problem is, it's mid-August and the road to the playoffs remains uphill. There is not a lot of time left for refinement.
Beckett has now surrendered 91 hits in 76 innings. In his previous nine seasons in the majors, he had allowed fewer hits than innings pitched. Entering Friday's start, opponents were hitting .284 off Beckett. That number had never been higher than .256 in a season.
After Sunday's effort in Yankee Stadium, one could speculate on what caused the barrage against Beckett. He had no run support, and therefore a miniscule margin for error. Perhaps trying to be too fine, he just missed his mark and caught too much of the white.
But backed by three consecutive solo homers to start the fourth inning, Beckett had an 8-2 lead Friday night in a park where he has enjoyed his past outings — he entered with a 2-1 record and a 2.25 ERA in Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
However, by the time he gave way to Boston's shaky bullpen after just five innings, the score was 8-6. On a hot Texas night in mid-August, two-run leads can vanish in an instant, as evidenced by the Rangers' methodical comeback. That comeback culminated on Nelson Cruz's walk-off homer against Tim Wakefield in the 11th.
"I want to be part of the solution not part of the problem, and I'm not that," Beckett said. "I'm not worried about individual stats. I wanted to keep us in a game because our bullpen shouldn't have been put in that situation. Tim Wakefield shouldn't have been put in that situation if I had just done my job."
One of the three home runs surrendered by Beckett on Friday was a solo shot crushed by Josh Hamilton, who also had a single off the Red Sox' starter and is now 6-for-12 lifetime in their matchups. He knows what to wait for when Beckett is not at his best.
"I know that he's a great pitcher and he's a smart pitcher as well," Hamilton said before revealing his strategy against Beckett, one which several hitters have taken this year. "You can't take pitches out of the zone. If he sees that, then he's got to throw me one for a strike, and that's what I waited for."
While Hamilton's wait was fruitful, the one the Red Sox are going through in getting the Josh Beckett they need has not been. At the very least, they know what the issue is.
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