While those '05 numbers are great (15-8, 3.38 ERA), it was the work Beckett did two years before then that was likely lingering most in the minds of the Sox front office.
In the 2003 World Series against the Yankees, the entire world witnessed a 23-year-old kid limit the Bronx Bombers to just two runs on eight hits over 16 1/3 total innings while striking out 19. In one of the most memorable Series moments since 2000, folks across the country can still picture the hurler tagging out Jorge Posada for the final out of the clinching victory — a game in which Beckett spun a five-hit, complete-game shutout against Derek Jeter, Jason Giambi, Bernie Williams, Hideki Matsui, Alfonso Soriano and the rest of Joe Torre's stacked lineup.
On a far lesser scale, it's that Josh Beckett that both the pitcher and Red Sox Nation are in need of come Tuesday night in Cleveland and beyond.
While comparing a World Series tilt to Game 4 of a regular season is tough to comprehend, knowing Beckett's situation and the expectancies of this Sox squad isn't. Beckett, who was considered the ace of this staff just one year ago, is now the No. 4 starter. The righty went just 6-6 with a 5.38 ERA in 21 starts last summer, and many are skeptical that the flamethrower won't be able to bounce back to his normal 16-win self.
The team is off to a historically awful start to the season following a historically hyped up offseason. Newcomers, veterans, pitchers, batters and almost everyone in between struggled in Texas over the weekend. Although it was a three-game sweep by the reigning AL champs, it has already become a "wait till next year" kind of April for many Tobin-bound Bostonians.
As for Beckett, he can get off on the right foot and win his fans back — and that's why his first start of the year, in the Sixth City against the Indians, is so important. The pissed-off Texan, who used to throw high and tight before barking at players who would stare him down or lollygag around the bases, has been MIA for far too long, according to most fans.
As if Beckett needed more motivation to come out firing in Cleveland, the righty has an interesting history with the Tribe, who are one of just three American League teams to have a winning record against the hurler. Beckett is just 3-4 with a 5.56 ERA in seven career starts against Cleveland, but two of those wins came in the 2007 ALCS when he allowed just three runs over 14 innings while striking out 18.
His third career win over the Tribe came last summer in a heated August battle at Fenway when he had arguably the best game of a shaky 2010 season.
In that win, Beckett went eight innings and allowed just one run on three hits. He struck out eight and walked zero but he also sparked some controversy by plunking Shelley Duncan (who went 4-for-5 against John Lackey the night before) in the first inning and Shin-Soo Choo (three batters after Lou Marson led off the inning with a homer) in the third. After he hit Choo in the third, not a single Indian would reach base the rest of the evening. The pitcher's night ended in the eighth when the benches cleared after Adrian Beltre was thrown at and Beckett had to be separated from Duncan.
On Tuesday, Beckett can not only get the Sox back on track with the ferocity he displayed on that cloudy August night, but he can also prove to the Nation that he's officially back and raring to go for a spirited campaign. Beckett was brought on board for gutsy starts — Yankee Stadium series finales, playoff clinchers, late-season must-wins and skid-busting performances. What better time than now to get the old ace back?
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