With the way Beckett was pitching, it did not matter one bit.
In an effort that brought back recollections of the Beckett of 2007 and 2009, he convincingly dominated a Yankees lineup that had given him all sorts of fits in recent years, the catalyst in a 4-0 win that got Boston in the win column for the second time this year.
Beckett allowed just two hits, walked one man and hit another in eight innings while striking out 10 for the first time since July 27, 2009. He retired the last 14 he faced and left having thrown just 103 pitches, which included a little bit of everything, all of it effective.
"I just felt like I never did get into a pattern," Beckett said, implying that as a positive that helped keep the Yankees off-balance all night. "Felt like I was throwing everything."
Beckett has said that using his entire arsenal was a goal this season of his after occasionally falling in love with certain pitches from time to time in 2010. "I want to get back to mixing in everything," he said back on February 15. From the get-go on Sunday, it was clear that he had the capability to do so, as all of his pitches were working.
Beckett struck out Brett Gardner to begin the game on a 74 mph curveball. He got Mark Teixeira for the last out of the first inning on a 94 mph two-seam fastball that darted away from the Yankees slugger.
That's the pitch, when thrown effectively to lefties, that Terry Francona always says is the key to Beckett's success. Again, he might've been able to survive Sunday even if that wasn't the case. The curve was a vintage Beckett curve, the changeup solid and the four-seamer had plenty of power behind it.
New York went in order against Beckett in the first, second, fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth innings. It was the third and the fourth that saw the Yanks mount a threat, but Beckett, who had issues with the big inning in 2010, made pitches both times to wiggle out of trouble.
With two one and one out in the third, he used that changeup to get in on Brett Gardner, who grounded right to second base, where Dustin Pedroia stepped on second and threw to first in one motion to nail the speedy runner. Although Beckett had one of his 10 Ks with two men on to help him get out of the fourth, it was that confrontation with Gardner that made his night.
"The strikeouts, they're great, but the biggest pitch I had to make was the double-play ball that I got Gardner on," he said. "If he hits that anywhere else, it's so hard to turn the double play."
It was a scoreless game at the time and CC Sabathia was on the mound for the Yankees, so the play gave the club, and Beckett, plenty of lift. The right-hander's stuff did the rest.
"It's welcome to see anybody pitch like that, but he was really good," Francona said. "I mean, he made pitches all night. That's a good lineup and especially with the score the way it was, you make a mistake and all of a sudden … but he never did."
One aspect of Beckett's outing that did not go unnoticed was the man behind the plate, catcher Jason Varitek. That pairing has yielded many of Beckett's best starts, and Sunday was no different. He had been teamed with Jarrod Saltalamacchia in his season debut Tuesday.
Varitek called the outing "one of the best" ever for Beckett. That's rather telling. So, too, are the comments made by Beckett about the synergy between the two veterans.
"He's just so calming. He puts on that face. He's just very calming," Beckett said of the Red Sox captain. "[Saltalamacchia] does that too, that's not taking anything away from him. It just happened to be that day and Tek and I were clicking. We do that a lot."
Francona talked before the game about how team attitudes often hinge on certain moments. Often, it's impossible to differentiate those moments until the season is complete and one can look back at the schedule and pick out a game or two that turned the tide.
Sunday, with Beckett outdueling CC Sabathia in the finale of the first home series of the year, could be one such day. Again, it's too early to tell, but the sheer symbolism of the effort by the man still considered the staff leader, despite his "No. 4" status, was not lost on anyone.
For his part, Beckett is already looking beyond it.
"I feel good about my outing," he said. "I went eight and saved the bullpen a little bit, but we still have a long way to go."
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