Josh Beckett, yet again, proved he is a BGP – Big Game Pitcher. With his team facing elimination, in a hostile environment, against a lineup he owned less than a week ago, Beckett managed to overcome any distractions ‘Pecking’ away at him and pitched a gem.
Beckett proved himself in ’03 when he pitched the Marlins past the Cubs, and then the Yanks for the World Series title. But last night’s performance against the Tribe might be the most significant of all.
The adversity started before Beckett even toed the rubber. I could hear Red Sox Nation groan when Manny decided to not slide and was thrown out at home to end the top of the first.
I contemplated turning off the game. Instead I stayed-tuned with an I’m-going-to-watch-the-Sox-last-game-of-the-season frame of mind.
Then Grady Sizemore led off the bottom of the first with a double, and Cabrera followed with a wounded-duck single. I cringed. I thought to myself: “Does Girardi (referring to Fox analyst Joe-denying any contact with the Bronx Bombers while shopping for pajamas-who asserted that Beckett was injured) know something?
When Haefner grounded into the double play, I exhaled. Any relief seemed short-lived.
Manny hit the longest RBI single in the history of the game. Then a couple innings later Lowell’s line drive bounced just foul. Kielty flied out with bases loaded. Lugo grounded into a double play, and the Sox seemed more intent on hitting double play balls then driving in runs. Coco tried to bunt but couldn’t hit water if he fell out of a boat.
Every time the Indians ended a Sox rally, it seemed inevitable that the momentum would carry over to the Cleveland bats. I kept waiting for the Tribe to figure Beckett out.
Then in the fifth Lofton and Beckett have their tete-a-tete. I said to my daughter: “This can’t be good. Now Beckett is just gonna rare back and fire smoke. Everything will get out of control. Instead Varitek took over. The wily veteran called for the deuce. Then he called for the deuce again. Rather than relying on adrenalin ‘Tek got Beckett to focus and pitch.
Somehow despite all the possible negative karma that would have doomed Sox teams prior to ‘04, this group, with Beckett at the helm, did their finest 007 and made plans to “Die Another Day.”
Beckett retired six in a row, or was that ten in a row, or was that nine in a row? What was it? How many batters in a row did Beckett retire? McCarver, do you know how many?
I digress – Isn’t it great how McCarver has anointed himself as the leader of the club known as Manny-is-everything-that-is-wrong-with-the-game? Is Wally his vice president? That would be a great picture. Wally and McCarver, arm-in-arm, standing by a fire of dreadlocks.
Funny how it goes-the other day one of the talking heads mentioned that Manny was out on the field hours before game time taking fungoes off the Green Monster. That seems to be forgotten. As does Manny’s batting practice regimen. We can all condemn him for standing in the box too long, but his teammates love him – they friggin’ love him. Many are the major leaguers who would love to have as many opportunities as Manny does to stand in the batter’s box and watch as the ball sails over the fence.
Is it possible that Manny doesn’t fit into our stereotype of a professional athlete? Is he not worthy of being a baseball player? Would we rather that Manny played like Pete Rose? Or maybe Manny should be more like Mark McGwire? Or Rafael Palmiero? Or Barry Bonds?
The next time Papi or Lowell has a walk off check out the mob at home plate. Who is in there celebrating? Yeah that’s right – Manny. I’ll take his .500+ playoff average, his 15 game LCS hitting streak, and his 24 post-season round trippers.
Alas back to Beckett – not even an old flame could distract him from the task at hand. Mere coincidence that Danielle Peck sang “God Bless America”? Maybe. Still couldn’t distract Beckett.
Remember when the BoSox traded Hanley Ramirez and other prospects to the Marlins, and in return Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell came to Fenway? Remember how the peanut gallery relentlessly reminded everyone about this trade as Ramirez earned Rookie-of-the-Year Honors in ’06? Where are those people now?