Rapid Reaction: Red Sox 4, Tigers 1
July, 31, 2012
By Tony Lee | ESPNBoston.com
BOSTON -- It’s never dull with this team, is it?
As if a puppet master is pulling strings with a sadistic laugh high above Fenway Park, a relatively drama-free trade deadline day turned dramatic soon after the game began Tuesday night. Josh Beckett, who was the subject of many rumors but wasn't dealt away to the dismay of some fans, lasted just 2 2/3 innings before leaving with a back spasm. As Beckett, who had retired the first eight batters, walked off aside a member of the training staff, some members of the faithful let him have it, lustily booing the beleaguered right-hander.
That left reliever Clayton Mortensen, called up from Pawtucket earlier in the day, in a rather difficult situation. Already trailing 1-0, Mortensen had to face Prince Fielder with the bases loaded and two outs.
Naturally, Mortensen proceeded to escape the jam and to outduel reigning MVP Justin Verlander over the next hour or so. Mortensen went 2 2/3 scoreless innings, leaving with a 4-1 lead and watching as Franklin Morales and a 105-minute rain delay teamed to tame the Tigers in a rain-shortened affair that was called in the top of the sixth with Detroit having the bases loaded with two outs.
Exactly how general manager Ben Cherington drew it up when he decided to hang on to Beckett earlier in the day.
Back woes: It was May 18, 2010, when Beckett took the ball on a Sunday night in the Bronx. He was pitching for the first time in 11 days, having missed a turn in the rotation due to back spasms. After a 59-minute rain delay and 4 2/3 rocky innings, Beckett left the game with what was termed back stiffness.
He would miss the next two months.
At various times throughout that season, Beckett made side comments about his displeasure with having to pitch in the conditions that night in New York. Allow me to get personal for a moment. As someone who was on hand during a day that saw enough rain to fill all five boroughs, I agree. It was downright mucky on the mound, cold as a November night and quite breezy.
That’s not the case for this latest episode. There was a somewhat steady rain as Beckett began to unravel in the third, but it was the first sign of precipitation all day and it was not nearly as strong as it would be in the next few hours.
We will have to see if/how/when Beckett bounces back from this one.
Fenway can make all the difference: For Verlander and the Red Sox, that’s most certainly the case. Verlander has tossed 15 2/3 scoreless innings against Boston at home in the last two seasons, but has given up nine earned runs in his 11 innings over his last two outings at Fenway.
Learning curve: Pedro Ciriaco has been a wonderful addition to the Sox. He still may be a work in progress at shortstop, which is his primary position but one he has played only 14 times in the majors. That showed a bit in the top of the second, when a dribbler by Omar Infante turned into a base hit as Ciriaco was slow to charge the ball. By the time he fielded it and looked up, Ciriaco realized he had to hurry, but even a strong throw was too late.
That slight misplay opened the door for Beckett’s third-inning spiral.
Speaking of Ciriaco: After going 1-for-2, he is batting .348. Will Middlebrooks also went 1-for-2 and is now at .301. Those are the only two players in the starting lineup for the Red Sox with an average better than .300. If you were told in mid-March that that would be the case, you would think the messenger had confused Boston for Pawtucket.
What an odd year.