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RED SOX FYI

Beckett, Pedroia endure a tough night

October 06, 2008|Kevin Baxter | Times Staff Writer

BOSTON -- After missing a chance to open the series in Anaheim with a strained muscle in his rib cage, Red Sox ace Josh Beckett missed a chance to end it Sunday in Boston, turning in the worst postseason effort of his career in a 5-4, 12-inning loss to the Angels.

Arguably one of the best big-game pitchers in baseball, Beckett came in with six postseason wins in nine starts and a 0.56 earned-run average in the division series. But he gave up two homers to Mike Napoli in his five innings Sunday -- the shortest postseason start of his career -- while giving up four runs, matching what he's allowed in his last three postseason starts combined.

"They really made him work," Boston Manager Terry Francona said of Beckett, who missed the plate on 47 of his 106 pitches. "Right from the very first pitch of the game he was [pitching] out of the stretch."

Beckett gave up three walks in two innings Sunday, needing 51 pitches to get that far. And when he walked Vladimir Guerrero two innings later, he matched his total from four September starts combined.

Deja vu all over again

The Red Sox have a chance to end series again tonight -- and avoid a trip back across the country for Game 5 -- with left-hander Jon Lester on the mound against the Angels' John Lackey. Lester was brilliant in Beckett's place in the opener Wednesday.

And, like Beckett, he knows a little something about closing out a playoff series since he was the winning pitcher in the final game of Boston's World Series sweep last season.

"Any time you pitch in a playoff atmosphere, it helps with your nerves and your emotions," said Lester, who won 11 of 12 decisions at Fenway Park this season with a 2.49 ERA.

Added Francona, noting the fact both teams got at least seven innings from their bullpens Sunday: "The kid's been good all year. [But] for both sides starting pitching will be at a premium. It's a lot of innings."

Difficult series

Dustin Pedroia will get a lot of support in voting for the American League MVP award after leading the league with 118 runs and finishing second with a .326 average. But in the postseason this year, he is 0 for 13. He had a couple of chances to be a hero Sunday, but he fouled out with a runner at second and no outs in the fifth, flied out with a runner on in the seventh and grounded out to end the 11th with the game-winning run at second. Pedroia struggled in the division series last year, batting .154 against the Angels.

Power outage

Pedroia wasn't the only Red Sox to have a tough night. Not only was Boston held to seven hits -- including two by Jacoby Ellsbury that should have been caught -- but the heart of the Boston order was two for 22 combined.

Kevin Youkilis accounted for both those hits as the Red Sox went two for eight with runners in scoring position, stranding 11 runners. Going into Game 3 the second through sixth spots in the Red Sox lineup had driven in nine of Boston's 11 runs.

Tidbits

Sunday's crowd of 39,067 was the largest at Fenway Park since World War II. . . . Twelve of Boston's 15 runs in the series have scored with two outs. All four runs the Red Sox scored Sunday came with two out. . . . Twelve pitchers combined to throw 440 pitches in Game 3, which lasted 5 hours 19 minutes.

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kevin.baxter@latimes.com

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