NEW YORK — Just minutes after the Yankees defeated the Red Sox on Saturday afternoon, Boston began to look to its staff leader, Josh Beckett, in a prime-time game Sunday night that suddenly had massive ramifications.
Terry Francona remarked how strong Beckett had looked in his three starts since returning from a lower back strain. Mike Lowell talked about Beckett bringing the "pedigree of a number one guy."
There wasn’t much discussion on Beckett’s struggles against New York. After another bitter outing in the midst of the rivalry Sunday night, perhaps there should be. Beckett, who gave up seven runs on 11 hits in 4 2/3 innings of a 7-2 loss, has no need for such discussion.
"No," he said when asked if there was anything contributing to his struggles against New York. "I don’t break it down like that. It’s frustrating but I don’t break it down like that."
When you do break it down, the numbers are tough to take.
Since throwing back-to-back scoreless outings against the Yankees early in 2009, Beckett has gone 0-3 with a monstrous 10.54 ERA in five starts against New York. That number is 11.17 in four meetings in 2010. He has failed to get through five innings in three of his last four appearances in the rivalry.
On Sunday, pitching in the same venue in which he suffered a back injury back in May that cost him more than two months of the season, it was a matter of location.
“I just threw too many balls over the fat part of the plate, it’s pretty simple,” said Beckett, who fell to 3-2 with a 6.21 ERA overall. “They don’t hit balls outside of the strike zone that hard.”
Indeed, the 11 hits are the most Beckett has allowed this season. Four went for extra bases, including a towering home run by Mark Teixeira that kicked off the Yankees’ five-run fifth.
In his defense, there wasn’t a lot of help for Beckett.
The Red Sox had as many errors as runs, and while all seven runs charged to Beckett were earned, the miscues hurt.
First, Bill Hall threw the ball away trying to cut down speedster Brett Gardner at first base in the bottom of the second. Lance Berkman, who began the play on second base, scored the game’s first run.
With the score 4-1 in the fifth, the Yanks had runners at second and third with one out. After Beckett threw a cutter by Gardner for the second out of the inning, catcher Kevin Cash attempted to pick off Robinson Cano at third, but his throw was also off the mark. It hit Cano in the helmet and bounced down the line in left.
Cano scored, two other runners moved up and Derek Jeter followed with a two-run double that chased Beckett.
Although both Hall and Cash shouldered some of the blame, Beckett put it all on himself.
"You give up seven runs who else are you going to blame? It’s not anybody else’s fault in here," he said.
Beckett had gone 2-0 with a 2.18 ERA in his first three starts off the DL. In each of those outings, he worked well in the periphery of the strike zone. Facing the one team that can hurt you more than any other if you do not locate, he was missing his mark.
"Any time he goes out there and gets hit around a little bit, he did give up his hits tonight, it’s a little surprising" Cash said before remembering who the opponent was. "You also have to look at who he’s throwing against."
Therein lies the bulk of the issue. The Yankees are just that good. They make many pitchers lament location and tote around ERAs that look more like 100-yard dash times. Five times in a row they’ve done that to Beckett.